Some time before relentless rain submerged the UK in the last week, Banksy appears to have taken a trip to the seaside.
Sharp-eyed sunseekers in the Sussex town of St Leonards reckon a spraypainting of a child making sandcastles emblazoned with advertising for Tesco, daubed on an innocuous set of steps leading down to the beach, was made by the graffiti overlord as he visited the area last weekend for the 40th birthday of fellow aerosol artist Ben Eine.
"The debate has been raging for a couple of days now as to whether or not it's genuine, but it does seem that it's an original Banksy," says Lorna Crabbe, the co-director of Hastings' Coastal Currents arts festival, which begins this weekend.
"There's been a lot of stuff on Facebook and Twitter – that's where all the rumours started. He's friends with Ben Eine, who's doing a large portrait of Prince Charles in St Leonards at the moment and has been painting shop shutters with this eyecatching bold lettering all over town for some time now. Apparently Banksy was in town to celebrate his birthday."
The timing is exquisite, arriving just days before the launch of the festival and hot on the heels of a controversial recent graffiti makeover for nearby pub The Tubman.
"It's frequented by the local music scene and there's been a big bold mural on the front of it recently," reports Crabbe. "There was a big local hoo-hah and somebody complained, which led to talk that it would have to come down.
"It was the first time there had been a large-scale graffiti work here, so it's interesting that it’s all happening at the same time. I think it is staying – there might be a rolling thing, where it changes – but it generated a big discussion around the town."
In a region traditionally dominated by Brighton in terms of press coverage, Crabbe is now relishing requests for quality time from the BBC and local newspapers.
"We're delighted to see this new work and the excitement it has raised locally," she admits. "It couldn't have come at a better time for us – Coastal Currents features a strong public art programme, so it's a great boost to us that everyone is talking about it.
"Hastings and St Leonards have a thriving art scene and an established and diverse community of artists. This is a great addition to our seafront."
Images: Karl Beaney, beaneys.co.uk; flickr.com/people/howaboutno; graffoto.co.uk
Stay tuned to Culture24 for a full preview of Coastal Currents as it prepares to entertain Hastings for the next month.