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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Connecting Brains, Heatherwood Court Hospital, Bronze Award for Themed Category: Connections, 2018


Themed Category

Jeremy Paxman judging the Themed Category

Participants in the Koestler Awards, and the staff who support them, told us several years ago that we could help by providing a themed category for entrants to use as a starting point when preparing their submissions.  In response we started the annual Themed Category. Each year a theme is chosen to which entrants can respond in any of the other Koestler Awards artforms.

The Themed Category gives many entrants the inspiration to take part in the Awards, often for the first time, and to experiment with new artforms. It doesn’t affect the other categories of Koestler Awards, although when a category has been especially popular, its impact can sometimes be felt across our exhibitions.

Scroll down to see artworks from previous years of the Koestler Awards.

Previous themes:

2018  Connections judged by Reggie Yates
2017  Inside chosen by Antony Gormley
2016  Comfort chosen by the Koestler Trust’s social media followers
2015  Journey chosen by the Koestler Trust’s social media followers
2014  Dreams judged by Olympic champion, Katherine Grainger CBE
2013  Forgiveness judged by Dame Jude Kelly OBE
2012  50 in celebration of 50 years of the Koestler Trust
2011  Help! chosen by Jeremy Paxman

Arts Project

The Arts Project category is open to entries which feature components that cover several Koestler Awards artforms, and that are created to engage people as artists, participants and audiences. Entries must include description of the aims of the project, documentation of the artistic outcome and the people involved.