An update from Koestler Arts in response to the impact of Covid-19

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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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  • Koestler Awards 2020: FAQs

Spirals Cafe, HM Prison Send Mixed Media, 2018

Koestler Awards 2020 FAQs

Due to the impact of Covid-19, there have been a few changes to the 2020 Koestler Awards.

Read our full statement and see below for answers to your frequently asked questions.

  • When is the Koestler Awards 2020 deadline?

    The Koestler Awards 2020 is open for entries until Tuesday 7th July 2020. After 2 months of working remotely, we are now able to access the Koestler Arts Centre to process award entries.

    We know everyone in the criminal justice system is facing ongoing challenges, and it still may be still difficult to get entries to us. Please do not hesitate to contact us at or ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’ if you need any assistance.

    If you have entries ready early, please help our team cope with our new late deadline by sending your entries to us as early as you can.

    We extended our original deadline to allow additional time for entrants to submit work during lockdown, particularly those in secure settings who may be more isolated during this time.

  • My art/education department is closed, and I have limited materials. What can I enter?

    You can enter anything creative, and small artworks made with limited materials can be great. Pen/pencil drawings, song lyrics, poems, stories, collages, greetings cards, calligraphy, soap carvings, paper models can all made with the materials you may have access to on a daily basis.

    Reduced materials can also challenge our creativity and enable us to produce some truly inspiring and beautiful outcomes.

    Many of these ‘simple’ artworks have received top awards or have been selected for our exhibitions.

    Take a look in our online galleries for more inspiration.

  • Are there any extra resources for entrants at this time?

    During lockdown we are producing a weekly Art Aid sheet to help inspire learners in prisons and other secure settings. On each PDF you will find a couple of activities that can be done using simple materials, and samples of past entries to the Koestler Awards.

    We’re working with education provider Novus to help distribute these, through in-cell screens and paper packs, to their learners.

    If you’re an education provider or prison arts organisation, you can also download and use the sheets. (Please drop us a note to let us know you did.)

  • How can I get Koestler Awards entry forms?

    You can write to ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’ to request entry forms. When things are back to normal, you’ll also be able to get entry forms from your establishment’s library or education department.

    There is also an entry form in the May and June printed editions of Inside Time.

    You can also print out our digital entry forms.

  • My tutor/probation officer/OT is not here to sign my entry forms. What should I do?

    Every entry form must be signed off by a regular member of staff at your establishment.

    Please wait until prisons and other organisations are getting back to normal, then get your forms signed by an authorised member of staff before posting your entries.

    If no one can sign your forms before the entry deadline (Tuesday 7 July 2020), please contact us at or ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’ to discuss.

  • Where can I send my entries if the Koestler Arts Centre is closed?

    If work is ready to go and entry forms have been signed by a member of staff, entries can still be sent to us in the usual ways.

    Entries up to 2kg can be sent to ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’. Anything heavier can be posted to ‘Koestler Arts, 168A Du Cane Road, LONDON W12 0TX’.

    If your entry is too big to post, we can accept deliveries – please call us beforehand to arrange a date and time to drop off your artwork. You and our team must follow social distancing guidelines during the delivery. Please note that you will not be allowed inside the Koestler Arts Centre.

  • I’ve heard about the new Platinum Award supported by the Butler Trust to thank key workers in the criminal justice system. What is this and how do I enter?

    This year we’ve teamed up with the Butler Trust to award a Platinum Koestler Award to recognise key workers in prisons, probation services, youth justice settings and immigration removal centres in keeping people safe and well. The winner will receive £100 for a work that celebrates the hidden heroes working in and around the prison service.

    If you are eligible for the Koestler Awards and have been inspired to make work around this theme, or know someone else who has – perhaps a poem about a prison officer going the extra mile, or a drawing of the impact of a chat with a chaplain – please enter the 2020 Koestler Awards in the usual way. The entry can be submitted into any of the usual artform categories. (Please see our 2020 Guidance Notes for more details.)

    We will announce the winner, along with a selection of other works on this theme, later in the year.

  • How many entries can I submit?

    We recognise that, during lockdown, some entrants may struggle to get advice on which artworks to enter into the Koestler Awards, and/or may have submitted work before the lockdown and now feel they would like to make more.

    If entrants would like to continue to use the Awards to inspire and motivate creativity during this time, we are allowing an additional 5 entries per person (a maximum of 10 per person).

  • Have you received my entries?

    We are now able to access the Koestler Arts Centre and are beginning to process the 2020 Koestler Awards entries. Once we have made a record of every submission, we plan to write to all entrants to confirm receipt of their work. Please note that this is likely to be several weeks after we reopen, as we will be processing thousands of entries.

    Make sure you keep us updated with your current address by emailing or by writing to ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’.

  • I have submitted work through the Fast Feedback Programme. Will I still receive feedback within 4 weeks?

    Unfortunately our Fast Feedback Programme is temporarily on hold. We will respond to your entry as soon as we can. Please keep us updated with your current address by emailing or by writing to ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’.

  • I wrote to you, but I’ve not heard back. When can I expect a reply?

    Due to lockdown, the Koestler Arts Centre was closed for over 2 months, so there is likely to be a significant delay in our reply to your letter. We are now able to access the Koestler Arts Centre and are gradually responding to everyone who written to us over the past few weeks.

    If your enquiry is urgent and it is possible to email us, please contact us at We are working remotely but can answer emails as usual.

  • Will my work still be judged?

    Your work will be processed in the usual ways – judges will view all entries and decide the award-winners.

    Koestler staff and volunteers will write feedback for as many 2020 entrants as possible.

  • When will the Koestler Awards 2020 results be announced?

    Usually, the Koestler Awards 2020 results are published on our website in August, however, this is likely to happen later this year. Subsequently, it is likely that certificates, feedback and prize money will also be sent out later.

    We will do our best to respond to submissions in the usual ways (feedback, awards, certificates, sales, exhibitions) and we plan to return to our normal schedule as soon as possible.

  • Will the Koestler exhibitions in London (2020), Yorkshire (2021) and Manchester (2021) still go ahead?

    Our exhibitions will go ahead as long as it is safe and feasible for our staff and our venues to do so.

    Please check back on our website or sign up to our newsletter for updates.

  • When will my work be returned to me?

    We plan to return to our regular schedule as soon as possible. We hope to return all visual artworks by the end of March 2021, except works selected for display in our Yorkshire exhibition.

    Make sure you keep us updated with your current address by emailing or by writing to ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’.

    Remember that we do not return written works or entries on CD, so please make sure that you keep copies.

Due to the impact of Covid-19, there have been a few changes to the 2020 Koestler Awards.

Read our full statement and see above for answers to your frequently asked questions.