Love-Locks in Leeds

I was at a workshop today at the University of Leeds and obviously couldn’t resist going in search of love-locks. I knew there were some on the Centenary Bridge but didn’t realise how many – it’s quite a well-established accumulation, with most love-locks dated to 2014 and 2015, and there were some really interesting deposits.

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Some love-locks were clustered together in “family-groups”.

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Some love-locks were very elaborately decorated using paints and what I assume to be nail varnish.

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Some love-locks were already decorated as part of their initial design. One with love-hearts and the word “love” written all over its surface in pink letters. One with a boy on one side, a girl on the other, and a love-heart between them, with the words “love is” written inside. And another was an incredibly opulent padlock, with what I think is religious imagery (Buddhism?) – I’ve never seen anything like it before and have no idea where the depositor could have sourced it.

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Some love-locks aren’t love-locks at all: there’s a piece of torn paper with the words “Stretch why did you do it” safety-pinned to the railing and, bizarrely enough, a shoe, hanging by its laces. Having researched the folklore and semiotics of the shoe (as a liminal object with a metonymical association with its wearer and hence the focus of various rituals and popular beliefs) for my MA, it’s tempting to believe the depositor of this shoe invested deep meaning in the choice of their deposit. But, as ever, we must be wary of over-interpretation. What this shoe and piece of safety-pinned paper probably indicate is that some depositors simply don’t come prepared with a padlock to deposit, and so choose to leave something else instead.

However, what’s unusual about the shoe is that – whilst other ad-hoc deposits tend to be both handy and dispensable (e.g. paper, hair bobbles, elastic bands) – you wouldn’t really class footwear as such. Handy, yes, but not really dispensable. Did the depositor hop home?

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