Digging for gold

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Folkestone's outer harbour

the outer harbour in Folkestone

Yesterday on the beach at Folkestone four gold bars were found after hundreds descended on the seaside resort with shovels, metal detectors and any digging implement they could find.


Because there were thirty pieces of gold buried on the outer harbour beach. They are there as an artist’s work in the Folkestone Triennial which starts- officially at least – tomorrow.

The artist, Michael Sailstorfer, has called his work Folkestone Digs although I suspect that, if it is named after just those who are trying their hands at finding buried treasure, it could just as easily be called Kent Digs or Half of the country thinks about visiting Folkestone and digging! Since there are ferry links, people from France and Belgium might be visiting too.

Sailstorfer claims he wants  “to make art that comes less from the head and more from the stomach.” I would have thought this art comes from an appeal to greed, a bit of fun and excitement and people’s wallets. Depending on which newspaper or TV broadcast you listened to this morning the gold is worth between £10,000 and £30,000 but, then, when has accuracy even been a requirement for a news story?

What it has done is provided Folkestone with more publicity than £30,000 could ever buy. Not many people will not know that there is gold to be found on the beach and be aware of the town’s name.

It’s not a new idea. Other resorts have buried coins and other appealing treasure but you have to wonder why more destinations don’t do it. If you had a promotional budget of even £1,000 planting 10 diamonds worth £100 each would generate at least twenty times as much publicity as placing ads in places like newspapers or even Just about Travel would bring.

If just one destination  that had a historical link to piracy or smuggling adopted the idea and spent that money on burying diamonds one year, emeralds the next, gold, silver, Spanish doubloons or whatever, tourists and the media would cover the event every single year. And there is an added bonus with more media coverage when you persuade one of the finders to give an interview expressing their surprise at winning because, of course, they have never ever won anything before and they’re so glad they came to Boring-by-the Sea which is now renamed Treasure-by-the-Sea.

But Folkestone and Sailstorfer didn’t bury the gold as a publicity stunt. This was serious public art.

For more information about Folkestone, click here.

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