Love-lock bridges are 21st-century accumulations of padlocks. Typically, a couple – possibly having written their names/initials on a padlock – will attach it to the railings of a bridge or other urban structure and throw the key into the river below, as a symbol of their everlasting love for each other.
Apparently, since Italian writer Federico Moccia published his book, Ho voglia di te (I Want You) in 2006, in which a character attaches a padlock to the Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome, local teenagers began to imitate the custom. The practice was then widely adopted by tourists, with couples writing their initials on padlocks (often sold by hawkers), affixing the padlock to the bridge, and then tossing the key into the Tiber.
These love-lock bridges are popping up all over the place: Paris, Rome, Budapest, Prague, Moscow, St. Petersburg, New York, etc. In Moscow, metal tree-like structures have been erected specifically for this purpose on Luzhkov Bridge, with a tradition having emerged during the 2000s for couples to visit the site and deposit their own love-locks on the day of their wedding. And during a recent trip to London (October 2012) I noticed about 20 padlocks, embellished with the initials of their depositors, attached to the railings on Tower Bridge. If the authorities don’t remove them, I imagine that in a few years Tower Bridge will be as prolifically adorned with padlocks as the bridges in Moscow and Rome.
I’ve been interested in love-lock bridges since 2011, when I first came across an article about the custom on the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve visited them in London, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, but was always a little saddened that the custom didn’t seem to have sprung up in my home city of Manchester. Granted, this isn’t the most romantic city in the world (plus there’s no famous river over which people can deposit their love-locks), but I still hoped that, by the processes of dissemination, this practice would eventually find its way to Manchester.
And then in February 2014, it did.
By pure, serendipitous chance, I pass a set of railings overlooking a canal, on Oxford Road, along my way to university nearly every day, and last week I just happened to notice 7 love-locks attached to them. I’m fairly certain they weren’t there a few weeks ago. Now 7 isn’t a substantial number, but I’m going to predict that – through the processes of imitation and dissemination – this number is going to multiply. And so I’m going to continue walking past this small accumulation to see if it grows – and, if it does, how quickly. So I’ll post a blog entry for every time I notice an increase in the number of love-locks and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to trace the chronology of the establishment of a folkloric practice.