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

Voices Out Loud

Another Me, Royal Festival Hall, October 2019

Actors from Synergy Theatre Project, with lived experience of the criminal justice system, performed texts by Koestler Awards entrants in the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday 5 and Sunday 13 October.

Watch a video of their performance below, including work featured in Another Me and our poetry anthology, Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons Vol. 2.

Get your copy of our poetry anthology, with a foreword by George the Poet, here.


Koestler Curates

Royal Festival Hall

Two free lunchtime concerts in the Royal Festival Hall as part of our annual UK exhibition at Southbank Centre.

The Pinnacle performing at Southbank Centre

On Friday 11 October, The Pinnacle – the fourth band formed on The Irene Taylor Trust‘s Sounding Out programme – made their debut performance, playing original material. Listen here.

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


Mindful Tours

Another Me, Royal Festival Hall, Saturday 19 October

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

Mindfulness practitioner and writer Lucia van der Drift of Limina Collective led two mindful tours of our UK exhibition Another Me.

In ‘Mindful Looking’, the group considered a mindful approach to the show before engaging with a selection of key visual pieces.

‘Mindful Writing’ responded to writing in our recently published poetry anthology, Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons Vol 2.


Voices from Prison

Royal Festival Hall, Thursday 24 October 2019

Spoken word artist and Koestler Awards judge Wanda Canton at Voices from Prison, 2019

An evening of performances of work from the 2019 Koestler Awards, as part of London Literature Festival, hosted by spoken word artist and Koestler Awards judge Wanda Canton.

Our annual Voices from Prison event showcased the unique and diverse work entered into the Koestler Awards on the occasion of our 2019 Southbank Centre exhibition, Another Me.

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


Open House 2019

Koestler Arts Centre, 21 – 22 September 2019

HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs

In September 2019, we opened the doors of the Koestler Arts Centre, as part of Open House London 2019.

Guests joined us to explore this historic building, at our headquarters in the former governor’s house at the gates of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs in West London, as well as paintings, sculptures, textile art, ceramics and much more from prisons, detention centers and secure hospitals across the country.

Find out more about Open House London here.


Another Me: Opening Day

The Test, HM Prison Greenock

Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, The Clore Ballroom

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.


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 Christmas Card Competition 2018 Winning Entry, HM Prison Edinburgh

Koestler Arts Centre, Wednesday 19 December

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.


Postcards from Prison

Sotheby’s London, Thursday 10 May 2018

Postcards from Prison, 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.