Unlock the talent inside

Since 1962 the Koestler Awards have played a unique, national role in motivating prisoners, secure hospital patients and immigration detainees to take part in the arts. The Koestler Awards are simple and powerful – we reward achievement, build self-confidence and broaden horizons for some of society’s most disadvantaged and marginalised people.

Our work harnesses the uniquely transformative power of the arts to help individuals learn the skills and gain the confidence to live creative, positive and productive lives. Each year we receive more than 7,000 entries from over 3,500 entrants across the UK in 52 categories. More than 2,000 Awards are granted by over 100 esteemed judges, and each year culminates in a curated exhibition at Southbank Centre which showcases the incredible power of the arts to transform lives.

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The Spirit of Jazz

Wow, what have I just witnessed? That was amazing!

Member of ‘The Ensemble’ from HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs

We are still elated after the EFG London Jazz Festival concert at HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs last week. This sold-out show was the first ever jazz festival event inside a prison, and saw a group of performers from Scrubs share the stage with Grammy-Award winning musician Rhiannon Giddens. One member of ‘The Ensemble’ from the prison, reviews the experience:

It can be argued that jazz music has its roots in suffering and despair. It gave the pioneers of jazz music a platform to express a freeness of spirit and a way out of despondency. When I think of tonight’s amazing performance, I can’t help but realise that suffering has its rewards and that reward is that you can use that suffering to help others who are suffering also.

Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi in the prison chapel at HMP Wormwood Scrubs

He who feels it, knows it!

In a world of inequality, injustice, incarcerations and institutionalisation, there is an intrinsic value that shines forth, like a ray of sunshine and warms the hearts of those in need. Let us just imagine for a moment that your mind is a garden, and your thoughts are the seeds, with tonight’s ray of sunshine performance, you can start to grow flowers and pull up the weeds.

This EFG London Jazz Festival performance held at HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs chapel, epitomises the spirit of jazz. The headline act for the evening, Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, performed outstandingly. Their musicianship, with a banjo, fiddle and various tambourines, had the entire audience in awe. Not to mention the dynamic, vibrant, rich, emotional vocals of Ms Giddens – simply breath-taking.

The supporting performances came from 6 men – I choose not to call them prisoners because their performances represented a freeness of spirit (sound familiar?).

Within two weeks, these 6 men came together and created original poetry, rap and songs based on 4 works of art from the Koestler Awards under the guidance of guest artists and workshop leaders Sherry and Fusion. The majority of this ensemble had never tried before to create anything musical, let alone perform to a live audience. Their collaborations of ‘Tree Without Roots’, ‘Waves Keep Rolling’ and ‘One Day I Will Leave With Tomorrow’ all received standing ovations and planted the seeds of fruitful beginnings. And that my friend, is the spirit of jazz.


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