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When you think of the term “gold rush”, the locations that immediately spring to mind are Klondike, the Yukon, Victoria and Tierra del Fuego. But Folkestone? Perhaps not. A gold rush started in the unlikely location of Kent town, however, and all in the name of art, when German artist Michael Sailstorfer buried gold bullion underneath the beach.
Over 200 residents hunted the 30 24-carat bars, each one worth an average of around £333, during low tide.
It was a case of finders keepers, as treasure hunters were allowed to keep whatever they found as part of the Folkestone Triennial arts festival. Kevin Wood, Kirsty Henderson and her sister Megan were the first confirmed finders when they unearthed a £500 piece after digging for an hour at low tide.
The project excited many people from Folkestone and the surrounding environs. Many of them originally dismissed it as a stunt, but within hours a plethora of metal detectors could be seen on the beach.
Event organisers hope that diggers will create an artwork through simultaneously creating sand castles; the project also aims to change people’s perceptions surrounding public art.
Sailstorfer’s Folkstone Digs initiative on the town’s Outer Harbour sands isn’t his first left-field art installation. He once re-affixed falling autumn leaves back on a tree before painting them spring green. Sailstorfer has also hidden treasure in his native Germany. This event saw locals foraging with huge mechanical diggers.
Artist Michael Sailstorfer
The arts festival, which started on Saturday 30th August, runs until 2nd November.
Yoko Ono is one of the artists visiting at the festival. Her giant poster bearing the legend “Earth Peace” is the first thing visitors to the town see when they step out of the town’s central railway station.
Other exhibiting artists include Pablo Bronstein, Strange Cargo, Something & Son and Andy Goldsworthy and Jonathan Wright, who is exhibiting a series of water towers.
One of the more intriguing exhibits is Krijn de Koning’s Dwelling, set in some of the town’s rocks. Fans of the original Star Trek series cannot fail to draw comparisons with some of the sets from the 1960s sci-fi series.
Back to the gold bullion, and event organisers are leaving festival visitors with this thought: will the bars’ value rise as a gold bullion piece or as a work of art?