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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Kaleidoscopic Fulfilment, HM Prison Peterborough, Inside Time First-Time Entrant Award for Mixed Media, 2015

Artforms & Award Winners

When the Koestler Awards started in 1962 there were just two Awards artforms: Writing and Fine Art. Now we have over 50 categories across the following artforms: Visual Art, Craft and Design, Writing, Performance and Audio, Film and Animation and Multi-Artform.

Artforms in the Koestler Awards have evolved with the times, and in response to feedback from our entrants and the people who work with them. More established categories include Painting, Poetry, Life Story and Portrait. Newer categories include Computer Generated Music, Song Writing, Digital Art and Spoken Word.

We invite experts in each field to judge the Awards, individually or as part of panels. The judging takes place at the Koestler Arts Centre throughout June each year.

Click on the arts categories in the menu on the right to see examples of the original and unique artworks entered in the Koestler Awards each year.