Folkestone treasure hunt: German artist sparks ‘British gold-rush’ by burying £10,000 in sand at coastal art festival

It’s ‘finders keepers’ for whoever can dig up the hidden gold first

arts correspondent

The gold rush came to Folkestone today as old men armed with metal detectors and little girls with buckets and spades searched the beach for buried bullion.

While the Kent town is no stranger to hidden treasure from the days when smugglers used to land on its shores, the idea to put 30 gold bars under the sand was the brainchild of German artist Michael Sailstorfer.

As news of the unusual artwork spread, and crucially as the tide went out, the sea-front at the old harbour was awash with people hunting for the bars worth a total of £10,000.

Amongst the hopeful were those taking it more seriously, arriving with equipment worth more than £2,500 that they believed would give them an advantage in the search.

Rob Walker, 32, was in a friend’s apartment in north London when he saw the news on social media. He went to Argos and bought a spade and metal detector and headed for the train station. “I know it’s ridiculous but it’s a real adventure. How often do you get to dig for gold. And you never know.”

Organisers of the Folkestone Triennial had managed to keep the project, dubbed Folkestone Digs, secret until news of Sailstorfer’s work was announced today.

Claire Doherty, director of arts producers Situations which commissioned the work, said she thought it was a joke when the idea was first suggested.

“When I first heard what he wanted to do, I said: ‘You’re kidding.’ Then he explained why, and that he wanted to create a new story for Folkestone.

“It’s about how people react. Do they dig together or keep to themselves? Do they watch and refuse to take part? It has the sense of fun and a desire for wealth.”

People debated the best places to dig. Tom Botley, 30, had been digging for 90 minutes and found one of the decoy washers that had been scattered to throw the metal detectors off.

“I’ve not seen or heard anyone who’s found anything,” he said.

“It has got people talking, so it has worked. People have come down here. I did wonder if there is anything buried at all.”

Matt Welsh, 40, is a metal detector enthusiast who has found ancient brooches, said: “I thought I’d give it a go. I wasn’t expecting there to be this many people.”

Lewis Biggs, curator of the Folkstone Triennial, said: “The wonderful thing is this is what people do anyway on the beach, now they are motivated in a different way. That is what art can do, it can shift your perspective.”

He said he was very happy with the idea: “It fits so naturally with Folkestone’s history of buried treasure.

“It does change the landscape. The magic thing is it is like an Etch a Sketch every time the tide comes in it wipes it out and there’s a new one.”

The artist was not there, or at least he said he was not. Some of the locals suggested he may have been watching from afar.

Lucy Winchester, 35, said she had heard from the arts festival newsletter. “When my daughters heard there was buried treasure, they wanted to find some. That idea of pirates and gold bullion is a dream come true for a six year old.”

But as dusk fell no one had struck gold, or at least no one revealed that they had.

FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam