'Unlocking the Love-Lock: The folklore and heritage of a modern-day custom'. Dr Ceri Houlbrook
Walk over a major bridge in a Western city and chances are you will come across at least one or two love-locks. These are padlocks inscribed with names or initials and attached to a public structure, typically by a couple in declaration of romantic commitment, who then proceed to throw the key into the river below. Some assemblages of these love tokens are modest; others number the thousands. This has become a truly global phenomenon, with hundreds of assemblages catalogued across 62 countries in all continents bar Antarctica: popular custom in the true sense of the term.
The love-lock custom became popular in the 2000s, and its dissemination was rapid, geographically unbound, and highly divisive, with love-locks emerging in locations as diverse as Paris and Taiwan; New York and Seoul; Melbourne and Moscow. The history of this custom is unclear, but a wealth of folklore has emerged to explain its origins and enmesh it in the identity of a place. In this talk, Ceri Houlbrook explores the worldwide popularity of the love-lock as a ritual token of love and commitment by considering its history, folklore, and heritage.
Ceri is a Lecturer in History and Folklore in the History Group at the University of Hertfordshire. Her primary research interests are the heritage and material culture of ritual and folklore in the British Isles. She completed her PhD at the University of Manchester in 2014, having focused on the archaeology and heritage of the British coin-tree. She is the author of Unlocking the Love-Lock: The History and Heritage of a Contemporary Custom (Berghahn Books 2021).