The Southbank pedestrian bridge
(Photograph by Georgia Jordan 20/05/15)
GEORGIA JORDAN: Twenty thousand love locks were removed from the Southbank pedestrian bridge last week amid safety concerns. The Melbourne City council said the weight of the locks threatened the structural integrity of the guard-rail wires along the sides of the bridge, as Lord Mayor [Robert] Doyle explains.
ROBERT DOYLE: These are the wires that form the safety barrier at the sides of the bridge and having them sag means that they’re no longer safety barriers and people are even clipping those wires together... so we think probably the time is up.
GEORGIA JORDAN: Andrew Mackinnon is co-owner of Ponyfish Island, the restaurant beneath the Southbank bridge. He explains the social significance of the love-lock phenomenon.
ANDREW MACKINNON: About four years ago, romantics copied the movement that was taking place in Paris—with the love lock bridge over there—where couples would actually gather around and sow their wild vows for each other, seal their padlock to the bridge, write their name on it, kiss the key and throw it into the river... and that started to take place on the bridge above Ponyfish, which is an amazing phenomenon, so we’ve been really wrapped to see that evolve over the years. As we became more culturally in-tune with the area, the cultural phenomenon started to grow and we felt very [much a] part of that growth. A lot of couples would kiss the key and throw it over, and then come down and enjoy something to eat and a drink and celebrate, because there actually is quite a decent ceremony that takes place with the key and the padlock.
GEORGIA JORDAN: Many Melburnians and tourists are fond of the sentimental social phenomenon, so now that Lord Mayor Doyle has brought it to an end, the council is under pressure to decide on a suitable new home for the locks, and Ponyfish has offered a solution.
ANDREW MACKINNON: It’s been visited by thousands of tourists, thousands of lovers, locals and [visitors] from abroad, and we just didn’t want to see it all come to a grinding halt because we think that it adds so much to Melbourne. Ponyfish loves Melbourne and we wanted to do our little bit for the lovers who put their energy and passion into their lock. And so when we heard the news two days ago, we decided that we would be somewhat of a knight in shining armour and put up our hand and offer to house the locks down at Ponyfish. If we can facilitate and hold that representation of love with us and if that’s of benefit to the island or a responsibility to the island, then that’s wonderful. Since the news of them being cut down has come out, we’ve had numerous emails thanking us.
GEORGIA JORDAN: Mr Mackinnon says communication between the restaurant and the council has been poor. The Lord Mayor is sceptical Ponyfish Island would be a realistic new home for the locks.
ROBERT DOYLE: I’m not sure how you would get the locks because they are actually locked so maybe you could restring them up—again you have to look at the safety concerns. I’m not sure, again, safety wires under the weight of these things and people having a couple of drinks on a Friday night mix that close to the Yarra but we’ve had lots of suggestions. We’ve had people suggesting we melt them down, we’ve had people suggesting we distribute them to different artists to see what they can do, we’ve had people suggesting we just toss them away. So we’ll take all those considerations on board and we’ll have a look at what we can do with that box of locks.
GEORGIA JORDAN: Mr Mackinnon says Ponyfish Island have a solid plan in mind for the locks and hopes continued support from the community will transform the plan into reality.
ANDREW MACKINNON: So we’ve thought about it and we think that we can avoid the sagging by putting steel rods through where the wires are at the moment [on Ponyfish Island]. We’re a big fan of Robert Doyle’s as well, our mayor, so it’s important for us not to be seen to be going against their wishes but to be seen as trying to help out and provide another solution.
GEORGIA JORDAN: This is Georgia Jordan reporting for the Trickling Stream of Consciousness podcast.