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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  • No Lockdown in the Imagination

Through the Keyhole, HM Prison Kilmarnock, Mixed Media, 2020

No Lockdown in the Imagination

2020 outdoor installation

Artwork from the 2020 Koestler Awards

12 November – 13 December 2020

Outdoors at London’s Southbank Centre and online

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This autumn, we are delighted to present a powerful installation across the outdoor spaces of Southbank Centre.

Creativity has been prisoners’ escape and saviour during the pandemic. Using limited materials and unlimited imaginations, people across our criminal justice system have kept themselves going.

Being creative has helped me survive my prison sentence, I go to a different place when I’m thinking of ideas and then making them out of whatever I can find.

Koestler Awards entrant, 2020

No Lockdown in the Imagination showcases some of this important artwork, which was entered into this year’s Koestler Awards, despite all the challenges faced by the criminal justice system. Visual art and poetry are emblazoned on the windows of Southbank Centre, alongside audio performances of poetry and spoken word entries.

Our installation title quotes Lemn Sissay MBE, whose blog entry on 3rd May 2020 read: “The reason prisoners can create extraordinary art and poetry is because there is no lockdown in the imagination.” 

Exhibition photographs by Tom Carter


A3 poster for the 2020 Koestler Arts installation 'No Lockdown In the Imagination' at Southbank Centre

Creativity has allowed me to absorb my life into another world. A fantasy world where I can forget everything around me.

Koestler Awards entrant, 2020

Art is limitless.

Koestler Awards entrant, 2020