Love-Locks – the ‘stories’ for the Le Jardin Victor event: Valentine’s Day 2024 in France

Rue du pont 8/10, Coulanges-sur-Yonne, France.

Alan Dearling explains a little about the event that Virginie Moerenhout has curated and created in France and on-line

Kaléïdoscopies III Bar de l’Amour

Virginie tells us that, “…the format of Kaléïdoscopies consists of one main artist and or artwork as a focal point, which other creative people connect to. Adding their ingredients to the mix, so together it forms something new; a kaleidoscope of different colours, shapes, viewpoints, materials, matiers.

The form in which everyone expresses themselves, the material they use for expression, the experience that this expression produces, all of a completely different nature. With a common denominator: passion.

See, hear, feel, taste or smell.

A tactile experience, a taste or smell sensation, a feast for the eyes or a musical experience. What elements and inspiration do very different people draw from the same starting point and how do they shape it?”

Kaléïdoscopies number three centred around Phileas Le Cléateur and his Cadenas d’Amour. The 800 love-locks he rescued from the Pont des Arts in Paris.

Some love-lock stories have been uncovered, but most of them remain a mystery. Food for the imagination. The names on the locks, who were those people? What was their story?

Kaléïdoscopies  III provided ‘shapes’ and ‘forms’ to ‘unlock’ these lost or forgotten stories, creating ‘faces’ and characters for the unknown. …With the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a mix of international artists and writers. On Valentine’s Day, Victor opened the doors of his Bar de L’Amour. Replete with love-potions, love-locks and other food for the imagination.


I was personally invited by Virginie to feel inspired by this concept, and create a ‘story’ related to two pictures of a specific love-lock, the names written on it, ‘Chip & Holly’, and the unknown story behind it. I created a short labyrinth vignette ‘story’ for inclusion in Kaléïdoscopies III.

On Valentine’s Day it was presented in Le Jardin Victor. This included his public space being transformed into a love potions bar, a love apothecary and a kiosk. I was informed that the combined art may at a later stage result in a booklet. My stand-alone story, ‘The Lock’, is included at the end of this article about the event.

A bit of background: Love-Locks in Paris, the City of Romance

The thousands of Cadenas d’Amour  (love-locks) attached to the parapets on the bridges of Paris for a number of years became the new, iconic image of ‘Paris Romantique’.

The first love-locks appeared in the city back in 2008, probably on the Pont des Arts.

From Wikipedia, I’m informed that: “Parisians and foreign visitors wrote their names with a love message and the date on a padlock.

They then attached the locks to the parapets’ fences and threw the keys into the Seine, sealing their love forever.

It’s believed that the tradition originated long ago in Asia .

In fact, it’s still widely practiced in Huangshan (China), Niigata (Japan) and in Korea, where love-locks make entire sections of walls. Newlyweds propagated the ‘romantic’ tradition when on their honeymoon abroad.

Love-Locks then appeared on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Ponte Milvio in Roma, Ponte de l’Academia in Venice, and Westminster Bridge in London.”

And this almost obsessional behaviour in locking  ‘love-locks’  to bridges has also been a part of my own personal experience working and living in Amsterdam.  That city provides at least  two popular locations where couples and individuals  leave locks. These are  both classic Dutch draw bridges:


– Staalmeestersbrug, the bridge that crosses the Groenburgwal.  And,

– The Magere brug (or Skinny Bridge) that crosses the river Amstel.

From Russia with love…

It is thought that the tradition originally spread from Russia over to Paris, and particularly on Pont des Arts.

The number of padlocks increased so quickly that spaces to place the locks soon became scarce on the bridge’s parapets. Love-locks then started to appear the other bridges of Paris: Pont-Neuf near La Samaritaine and Place Dauphine, but also Pont de l’Archevêché by Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Again, according to Wikipedia: “In 2011, the City of Paris contemplated removing the padlocks for fear that their weight would damage the structure of the Pont des Arts.

The extent of the social phenomenon, however, led to the decision to be reversed.

However, shortly after, the padlocks disappeared overnight along with the fences they were tied to.

Interestingly the padlock tradition triggered the appearance of a new trade. An army of padlock-sellers set up their stalls by the entrance of the bridges!”

Love locks issues

“Love padlocks might be romantic, however, they triggered major safety issues!  It is quite difficult to appreciate that these tiny shiny locks represented a load of about 255kg per meter of fence.


Entire fences of love locks regularly collapsed under their weight, as on June  9, 2014.

On that day, the 155 metre long Pont des Arts could have entirely collapsed under 79 tonnes of excess metal!  This accident prompted the City of Paris to clear the bridge of all the locks in 2015.

However, the mayor is looking for an alternative location, as the tradition has indeed become a ‘Must Do’ experience when visiting Paris. That said, many Parisians and tourists are delighted with the removal of the locks. But many more still love the love-locks.”

I’ve also personally witnessed the spread of love-locks on bridges in Lithuania in the Free Republic of Uzupis in the capital city, Vilnius.


The Lock

A vignette…a little labyrinth…

Alan Dearling

“The time is right.” Chip spoke the words quietly, almost silently, in her direction. ‘Her’ was Holly.

“Probably…almost definitely…what options, choices…err…”

“The time is right.” He almost whispered. Holly nodded. Perhaps in resignation. Maybe in assignation, assent.

“The Legend Days are over.”

The power has come to them. In trance-like, oft-time drugged haze states, they had cuddled up to each  other. Curled their bodies together. Become as one body, one mind, a single entity. They had smiled many a shared smile, slipped into shared dreams, memories, into hopes, fears…that’s what sleep offers, promises and nightmares. Reminders, memories…22 years of them. Times, experiences, places and people, good, indifferent and some deeply bad, dark…moments, minutes, hours and occasionally days and weeks, much better forgotten.

Daytimes, brought both pain and respite. But daytimes brought also very, very different thoughts. Reality checks.

“Reflections,” suggested Chip.


“Regrets are not options. We can’t go back.”

“You’re right, but fuck, shit, we’ve always known that it might come to this.”

They picked up the lock that they had bought with some of the money that had come into their possession. Not exactly legally. In fact, very illegally. Dangerously so. Those times, those choices seemed now to be part of their own pre-histories, almost shadow worlds. A few nights before, they had scraped, gouged their names into the surface of the lock. That was before Paris.

The power has come to them. The time is right. Legend days are over.

The lock clicked. Holly held the lock in place, stepped back, placing her hand on Chip’s forearm. She fiddled with a stray wisp of her auburn hair and let her head snuggle down into Chip’s neck.

Chip looked into her eyes. They were slightly red-rimmed, filled with the beginnings of tears: “We guessed, we thought that this might be a time that would come. We knew that it might be like this.”

Just three choices now. Three small brown, undistinguished, sealed envelopes, like the ones used for pay slips in pubs, restaurants and hospitality.  Pre-planned, plans.

The power came to them. Holly chose one envelope, opened it. Passed the slip of paper from inside to Chip.

“The Legend Days are over,” Holly said in a voice seemingly strangely resigned. The Fates had spoken. Their hands joined, fingers entwined. They grasped at the lock. Their lock, linking their fingers around its uneven surfaces. A symbol of past paths. Life and lives lived with and without regrets during their Legend Days.


Alan Dearling has had over 40 books of non-fiction and fiction published, some ‘solo’ works, some co-authored with other writers and editors. Alan suggests: “In some ways I’ve nicked the premise of Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian writer. This is outlined in the introduction to his first published volume of fiction, ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’, where Borges remarks, ‘It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books, setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them.’ ”

Here’s another photo from Kaléïdoscopies number three.

And here is one of Virginie, the curator of the event, which she generated using AI technology.






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