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.

Read more about us

Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi + HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, London Jazz Festival, 21 November 2019
Voices from Prisons, 24 October 2019, Southbank Centre
Exhibition Tours
Liberty Choir, 18 September & 1 November 2019, Southbank Centre

Upcoming Events

Exhibition Tours: Another Me

Led by our ex-prisoner exhibition hosts

Our specially recruited and trained ex-prisoner hosts will be working alongside Southbank Centre hosts at Another Me, our UK exhibition at Southbank Centre.

The hosts, employed by us, will be available to give visitors more information on the artworks from a personal perspective.

Feel free to ask them questions and take part in one of their exhibition tours.

Tours will take place throughout the exhibition (19 September – 3 November 2019) on Level 1 of the Royal Festival Hall.

Monday – Thursday, 6pm
Friday – Sunday, 1.30pm and 6pm

These tours are free and there is no booking required.

Please check the Southbank Centre website before your visit for any planned closures.

Synergy Theatre Project Performance at Royal Court Theatre

Wednesday 9 October at 2.30pm

Interlude, Ty Llidiard, CAMHS Uniy, Tina Wallace Under 25s Special Award for Painting, 2019

Synergy Theatre Project seeks out the most exciting new plays written by prisoners and ex-prisoners.

This October, we are delighted that Synergy will be performing extracts from three 2019 Koestler Award-winning plays from across the UK in a special event at the Royal Court Theatre on Wednesday 9 October at 2.30pm. The plays were read and judged by a panel of theatre professionals and ex-prisoners.

This event is free but can only booked, subject to availability, directly through Synergy. If you would like to come along then please email studio@synergytheatreproject.co.uk including ‘Koestler Arts Awards event’ in the subject line and provide your name, a contact telephone number and the number of seats you would like. The team at Synergy will reply to confirm if your request has been successful.

Voices Out Loud

Southbank Centre, Saturday 5 and Sunday 13 October

Boxed in Trilogy, HM Prison
Hewell, Painting, 2019

Join us at our 2019 UK exhibition Another Me (Exhibition Space, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall) at 3pm on Saturday 5 and Sunday 13 October as actors from Synergy Theatre with lived experience of the criminal justice system perform texts by Koestler Awards entrants.

Established in 2000 Synergy Theatre Project works towards rehabilitation and resettlement with prisoners, ex-prisoners and young people at risk of offending through theatre and related activities whilst placing the wider issues surrounding criminal justice in the public arena.

This event is free and unticketed.

Find out more about the event here.

Koestler Curates: Friday Lunch

Southbank Centre, Friday 11 October and Friday 1 November

The Irene Taylor Trust

Join us in the Level 2 Central Bar, Royal Festival Hall at 1pm for two free lunchtime concerts as part of our annual UK exhibition at Southbank Centre.

Friday 11 October
The Irene Taylor Trust have been running their ‘through the prison gate’ programme, Sounding Out since 2012. ‘The Pinnacle’ – the fourth band formed on the programme – will perform some of their original tracks live.

Friday 1 November
The Liberty Choir, a community choir made up of those with lived experience of the criminal justice system and those without, will perform live. The choir runs programmes in prisons, engaging prisoners in the power of singing together.

No booking required.

Mindful Looking & Mindful Writing Tours: Another Me

Southbank Centre, Saturday 19 October 2019 at 10.15am and 2.30pm

Carved Crayons, HM Prison Lewes, Sotheby’s Platinum Award for Sculpture, 2019

Mindfulness practitioner and writer Lucia van der Drift of Limina Collective leads a ‘mindful looking’ tour of our UK exhibition Another Me. Meet with the group in White Room, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall to consider a mindful approach to the show before engaging with a selection of key pieces.

Saturday 19 October at 10.15am

Buy your tickets here (£12).

Lucia will also be running a mindful writing workshop in response to writing in the recently published anthology, Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons Vol 2.

Saturday 19 October at 2.30pm

Buy your tickets here (£16).

Please note that both of these events are for ages 18+.

Story Circle

Southbank Centre, Thursday 24 October 2019

HM Prison Standford Hill (Sheppey
Cluster), Needlecraft, 2019

Improvise a collective story as part of a story circle in the exhibition space at Another Me.

In collaboration with Hammersmith and Fulham libraries, storyteller Richard Neville has been trialling story-making sessions with groups including prisoners.

Find out how group story-making engenders trust and promotes positive identities.

The group will meet in the Exhibition Space, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall at 11am.

This event is free and there is no booking required.

Find out more about the event here.

Voices from Prison

Royal Festival Hall, Thursday 24 October 2019

Querulous Insomnia, HM Prison
Shotts, Painting, 2019

Join us from 7pm in the Blue Room, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall to hear powerful performances of written and recorded works entered into the 2019 Koestler Awards for artwork made by people in prison.

Hosted by spoken word artist and Koestler Awards judge Wanda Canton.

Entry is £8 per person. Buy your tickets here.

EFG London Jazz Festival Concert: Rhiannon Giddens + HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs

HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, 21 November 2019

Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi

This November, we are teaming up with Serious for a unique concert in the atmospheric prison chapel of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs. We are excited to announce that this will be the first time that a London Jazz Festival event has taken place inside a prison.

Grammy Award winning musician Rhiannon Giddens will headline the event alongside Francesco Turrisi, supported by an ensemble of prisoners performing original vocal material in the atmospheric prison chapel.

This musical contribution from the prison will mark the culmination of a 3-week vocal project inside. The 15-20 participants from HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs will not be musical experts, just people with enthusiasm to try something new. Over 8 workshop sessions, with experienced workshop leaders Sherry Davis and Alain ‘Fusion’ Clapham, they will have the chance to explore different vocal styles, from gospel to beat-box. Along the way, they can test and explore their creativity, confidence, self-expression and ability to work together. Raising their voices, in the best possible way.

Public tickets for this event are now SOLD OUT. Find out more here.