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

Koestler Arts Centre
Postcards from Prison, Sotheby's 10 May 2018
Hanging Paper Ball, HM Prison Peterborough (women’s section), Craft, 2016

Past Events

Koestler Voices Feedback Writing Event

For National Writing Day, 26 June 2019

Join us to write personal feedback on creative writing by prisoners at our office in West London.

We receive thousands of pieces of fiction, non-fiction and poetry every year from prisoners of all levels of experience and ability. Each piece is personal and heartfelt, and we aim to write feedback to every entrant. You can help us achieve this by hand-writing clear, short, subjective feedback.

IMPORTANT: All participants must be over 18 and must register to Lara Akinnawo at lara@koestlerarts.org.uk by 17 June.

 Ben Howard in Concert for Koestler Arts

Birmingham Symphony Hall, 21 January 2019

Ben Howard has announced that he will be supporting Koestler Arts by donating the profits of a special and intimate concert taking place on 21 January 2019.

The concert will be the last UK date of his Noonday Dream Tour. Released in June this year to critical acclaim, Howard’s third full-length project Noonday Dream was produced by Howard himself and recorded in several studios between south west France and south west England.

The perfect setting for Howard’s distinct vocals, poetic lyricism, and his 9-piece orchestral band, and the most intimate venue of his UK tour, the beautiful Symphony Hall in Birmingham is widely considered one of the finest Concert Halls in the world. Home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, it also hosts the best in jazz, world music, folk, rock, pop and stand-up comedy.

Koestler Arts Christmas Open House

Koestler Arts Centre, Wednesday 19 December, 6 – 8pm

An evening of mulled wine and mince pies at the Koestler Arts Centre. This is the perfect opportunity to look around the arts centre and to buy fantastic and original artworks as Christmas presents.

We will also be selling Christmas cards by our prison associates, made for our 2018 Christmas Card Competition. Koestler Associates are people in prisons, secure hospitals and detention centres who have joined our membership scheme to receive regular updates and opportunities to support our work.

The winning design by a prisoner at HMP Edinburgh has been printed in packs of 10 which can be purchased for £10 at the event, or online. Exclusively available at the event will be the other entries to the competition, unique handmade cards which we will be selling for £5 each.

AAAARGH!!, Bolton Probation Office, Phillip King Bronze Award for Sculpture 2018

Voices from Prison

Wednesday 24 October 2018, 7.30pm
Royal Festival Hall, Blue Room, Level 1

An evening of performances of work from the 2018 Koestler Awards, part of London Literature Festival.

Come and hear some of the unique and diverse work entered into this year’s award scheme, on the occasion of our Southbank Centre exhibition, I’m Still Here.

Poetry, spoken word pieces and more will be read by entrants themselves, Koestler mentors and judges, as well as by arts professionals.

I’m Still Here: Synergy Theatre Project

Light from Art in a Dark Place, HM Prison Hull, Silver Award for Painting 2017

Synergy presents performances of 2018 Koestler Award winning stage play extracts

Wednesday 3 October 2018, 2:30pm
Royal Court Theatre
Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS

A showcase of extracts from three new plays from across the UK which were read and judged by a panel of theatre professionals and ex-prisoners.

The event is free but please RSVP by 5pm Monday 1 October 2018 to studio@synergytheatreproject.co.uk or call 020 366 6730

Open House London

Saturday 22 September 2018
Koestler Arts Centre

We are delighted to be participating in Open House London 2018. Our headquarters in the former governor’s house at the gates of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs in East Acton will be opening its doors to the public.

Artworks from the 52 categories in this year’s Koestler Awards will be for sale throughout our three-storey building. Come to see paintings, sculptures, textile art, ceramics and much more from prisons, detention centres and secure hospitals across the country.

This is a fantastic opportunity to see some of the thousands of artworks entered each year to our annual Award Scheme which have not been selected for our exhibition at Southbank Centre, as well as a selection of artworks from previous years, including the platinum award-winning painting from the first Koestler Awards in 1962.

This will be one of the first chances to buy unique and original artworks from the 2018 Koestler Awards.

I’m Still Here: Opening Festival

with The Rt Hon David Gauke MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport


Coming Clean, HM Prison Littlehey, soap carving, 2018

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Come to the opening festival of our exhibition at Southbank Centre, I’m Still Here. This year’s exhibition has been curated by prisoners’ families, and will offer a unique insight into their experiences.

We are launching the exhibition with performances, speeches, a Pop-up Shop with artworks from the Koestler Awards and guided tours of the exhibition led by our ex-prisoner hosts.

Read more about the exhibition >here

Postcards from Prison

Thursday 10 May

Join us at Sotheby’s for an evening of champagne and canapés hosted by comedian Griff Rhys Jones, and your ticket guarantees that you will be taking home an original artwork by an artist inside or outside of prison.

40 original artworks on postcards by major British artists – including Jeremy Deller, Tracey Emin, Alan Kane, Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker and Mark Wallinger – will be displayed alongside 120 by prisoners from across the country.

The artwork will be on display to the public from 9.30am – 4.30pm on Wednesday 9 May and Thursday 10 May if you want a sneak preview before the event. Each £100 ticket comes with one lottery ticket and an invitation for two to join us for the evening at Sotheby’s. If you can’t make it on the 10th, why not buy a £50 lottery ticket and we will post your original artwork to you following the event.

Carol Concert at Wormwood Scrubs and Christmas art sale

Thursday 14 December

We are thrilled to invite all the Friends of Koestler Arts to a carol concert inside the beautiful chapel of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, a Grade II listed building, followed by a last chance to buy artwork, craft and ceramics entered into the 2017 Koestler Awards and fantastic Koestler Arts merchandise. All perfect for under the Christmas tree.

HF ArtsFest Open House & Art Sale: 10 June 2017

The Koestler Arts Centre will open its doors to visitors on 10 June 2017 from 10am to 4pm as part of the Hammersmith and Fulham ArtsFest. This is a great opportunity to buy artwork and merchandise, and to learn more about our work and our exciting plans for this year. Entry is free, and all are welcome.

Postcards from Prison: 17 May 2017

A Koestler Arts fundraising evening at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill. Each ticket included an original artwork made on a postcard, and with 50 high-profile artists joining 150 artists from prisons across the country, there was a one-in-four chance of winning an artwork by an established artist including Grayson Perry, Harland Miller, Cornelia Parker and Maggi Hambling.

Art Not Crime: 16 May 2017

Koestler Arts was delighted to launch our very first regional mentoring hub, with an afternoon panel discussion, kindly hosted by Castlefield Gallery. The panel explored the use of the arts as a springboard for positive change in criminal justice settings, and beyond, as well as offering a unique chance to hear from participants who have been through the scheme, and the dedicated volunteers and professionals who make it possible.


Bars, Walls and Windows (But No Yellow), HM Prison Shotts, Silver Award for Painting, 2016

Robertson House Display: Spring 2017

Artworks by Scottish Koestler entrants went on show at Robertson House charity hub in Glasgow as part of a five-month display. Koestler Arts held two invitation-only events in November, including a family day for friends and relatives of the artists, giving them the opportunity to see the artwork. To find out more click here.

Koestler Week: 6 – 12 March 2017

During Koestler Week we celebrated the Koestler Awards with establishment visits, posters and flyers, as well as resources to inspire participation. Koestler Week is a great time for people to get involved in promoting the Awards to new entrants, and to start thinking about the entries they would like to submit before the deadline on 14 April. You can download the poster here.


Christmas Art Sale: 10 December 2016

The Koestler Arts Centre opened its doors for a Christmas Art Sale on Saturday 10 December 2016, from 2 – 6pm. This was an opportunity to buy original Christmas gifts such as paintings, drawings or ceramics. There was also the chance to purchase Koestler Christmas Cards and merchandise. Prices ranged from £1 to £500 and proceeds from the sale of the artworks were divided between the artist, Victim Support and Koestler Arts.

Paperwork: Summer 2016

PAPERWORK, an exhibition by Koestler Arts in collaboration with Victim Support, was on display at the Supreme Court from 3 August to 30 September 2016. The exhibition explored the creative ways that paper – a material integral to the workings of the legal system – has been re-imagined and re-worked by Koestler Award entrants. As part of its collaboration with Victim Support for this exhibition, Koestler Arts invited people who had been affected by crime to respond to some of the artworks. Their responses are displayed within the exhibition. To find out more, click here.

Life of Betty, Kibble Safe Centre, Scotland Platinum Award for Sculpture, 2015

Life of Betty, Kibble Safe Centre, Scotland Platinum Award for Sculpture, 2015

Summer Open House: 16 July 2016

The Koestler Arts Centre opened its doors on 16 July 2016 and invited members of the public to come and learn more about  Koestler Arts and to buy artworks from the 2016 Awards and the Koestler Collection. This was a rare opportunity to buy paintings, drawings and sculptures on the day. Prices ranged from £1 to £500 and sale proceeds are divided between the artist, Victim Support and Koestler Arts. The Pop-up Shop with Koestler Arts merchandise was also open for business, and there were refreshments available.

Pop-up Shop Spring Sale: 21 May 2016

Supermarket Squeak, HMP Low Newton, Highly Commended Award for Watercolour

Supermarket Squeak, HM Prison Low Newton, Highly Commended Award for Watercolour, 2015

The Koestler Arts Centre (based by the gates of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, near Shepherd’s Bush) threw open its doors on 21 May 2016 and welcomed members of the public to view some of the 2016 Awards entries, and to buy artworks from previous Award years and from the Koestler Collection, as well as Koestler Arts merchandise. Staff were on hand to explain the charity’s work to visitors and to answer questions, and there was tea, coffee and cake, and a silent auction for an extra special artwork from the Koestler Collection, with proceeds going to support our work.