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

A Feeling We All Share opening event with Roger Wright (Chief Executive, Snape Maltings) and Maggi Hambling (artist), 2019
Postcards from Prison, Sotheby's, 2018
A panel discussion at We are all human with Benjamin Zephaniah, 2016

Past Events

Another Me: Opening Day

The Test, HM Prison Greenock

Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, The Clore Ballroom, 18 September 2019 On the afternoon of Wednesday 18 September, we celebrated the opening of our annual UK exhibition, Another Me, curated by musician Soweto Kinch with a packed afternoon of speeches, tours, and a performance from the wonderful Liberty Choir in the Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall. Visit the Southbank Centre website for more information.

Feedback Tuesdays and Fridays

Koestler Arts Centre, July and August 2019

Feedback days, 2019

Throughout July and August 2019, we ran feedback writing days on Tuesdays and Fridays at our office in West London. Volunteers joined us to write personalised feedback on visual, written and audio entries, including Sculpture, Spoken Word, Painting, Portrait and Craft.

We will also ran two Saturday feedback days on the 10th and 17th August.

A huge thank you to everyone who volunteered their time to help provide feedback for our 2019 entries. Your support is invaluable.

If you would like to know more about our feedback writing days, please contact Phoebe at phoebe@koestlerarts.org.uk.

Koestler Voices Feedback Writing Event

For National Writing Day, 26 June 2019

Each year we receive thousands of pieces of fiction, non-fiction and poetry from prisoners of all levels of experience and ability. Each piece is personal and heartfelt, and we aim to write feedback to every entrant.

As part of National Writing Day 2019, we invited volunteers to help us achieve this by hand-writing clear, short, subjective feedback for all of our written entries.

For more information about this event, please contact Lara Akinnawo at lara@koestlerarts.org.uk.


Ben Howard in Concert for Koestler Arts

Birmingham Symphony Hall, 21 January 2019

In January 2019, singer-songwriter, musician and composer Ben Howard donated the profits of a special and intimate concert in Birmingham to Koestler Arts.

The concert was the last UK date of his Noonday Dream Tour.

Released in June 2018 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

Koestler Christmas Card Competition 2018 Winning Entry, HM Prison Edinburgh

An evening of mulled wine and mince pies at the Koestler Arts Centre. This event gave visitors the opportunity to look around our arts centre in West London and to buy original artworks as Christmas presents.

We also showcased the winners of our 2018 Christmas Card Competition, designed by our prison associates. 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, was printed in packs of 10 which were available to purchase for £10 at the event or online. Other entries to the competition were exclusively available at the event to purchase for £5 each as unique handmade cards.

Voices from Prison

Royal Festival Hall, Wednesday 24 October 2018

Bolton Probation Office, Phillip King Bronze Award for Sculpture 2018

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

Our annual Voices from Prison event showcased the unique and diverse work entered into the 2018 award scheme, on the occasion of our 2018 Southbank Centre exhibition, I’m Still Here.

Entrants, Koestler mentors and judges, as well as arts professionals performed a range of thought-provoking poetry and spoken word pieces.

Find out more here


I’m Still Here: Synergy Theatre Project

Royal Court Theatre, Wednesday 3 October 2018

In October 2018, Synergy Theatre Project performed extracts from three 2018 Koestler Award-winning stage plays.

The plays were read and judged by a panel of theatre professionals and ex-prisoners.

For more information about this event, please contact the Synergy team at studio@synergytheatreproject.co.uk

Open House London 2018

Koestler Arts Centre, Saturday 22 September 2018

Koestler Arts Centre

We were delighted to participate in Open House London 2018, opening the doors of our headquarters in the former governor’s house at the gates of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs in East Acton. Artworks from the 52 categories in this year’s Koestler Awards were for sale throughout our three-storey building, including paintings, sculptures, textile art, ceramics and much more from prisons, detention centres and secure hospitals across the country. This was a fantastic opportunity to see some of the thousands of artworks entered into the 2018 Koestler Awards which were not selected for our annual 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.

I’m Still Here: Opening Festival

Southbank Centre, Tuesday 18 September 2018

Coming Clean, HM Prison Littlehey, soap carving

The opening festival of our 2018 exhibition at Southbank Centre, I’m Still Here. Our 2018 exhibition was curated by prisoners’ families, and offered a unique insight into their experiences.

We launched 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

Sotheby’s London, Thursday 10 May 2018

Postcards From Prisons, 2018

An evening of champagne and canapés hosted by comedian Griff Rhys Jones at Sotheby’s, London.

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

Each £100 ticket came with one lottery ticket, guaranteeing an original artwork from an artist either inside or outside prison, plus an invitation for two to join us for the evening at Sotheby’s.

The artwork was on display to the public from 9.30am – 4.30pm on Wednesday 9 May and Thursday 10 May.

Carol Concert and Christmas art sale

HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, Thursday 14 December 2017

We were thrilled to invite all 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

Koestler Arts Centre, 10 June 2017

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

Postcards from Prison

Tabernacle, Notting Hill, 17 May 2017

Each ticket to this fundraising evening included an original artwork made on a postcard. 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

Castlefield Gallery, 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.

Robertson House Display

Glasgow, Spring 2017

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

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.

Download the poster here.

Christmas Art Sale

Koestler Arts Centre, 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.


Supreme Court, 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.

Summer Open House

Koestler Arts Centre, 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

Koestler Arts Centre, 21 May 2016

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.