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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
Ministry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Richard Dawkins is known for his outspoken views
people
Life and Style
L’Auberge du pont de Collonges (AFP)
food + drinkFury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Arts and Entertainment
Bourne's New Adventures dance company worked with 27 young Londoners to devise a curtain-raiser staged before New Adventures' performance of Edward Scissorhands
theatreStar choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links