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

AAAAARGH!!, Bolton Probation Office, Phillip King Bronze Award for Sculpture, Unilink Gold Visitors' Choice Award

How to enter the Koestler Awards

2019 Koestler Awards: Deadline has now passed

The themed category for 2019 is ‘Interlude’. We invited our entrants to have a go at producing a poem, drawing, painting, song or any other Koestler artform using the word ‘Interlude’ as a theme.

Download the full list of 2019 Award Winners.

Entry Forms, Under 18s Entry Forms, Guidance Notes, Awards Poster and our new Double-Sided Pictorial Poster can be downloaded by clicking on the links. Hard copies are sent out to prisons, young offender institutions, secure training centres, secure children’s homes, immigration removal centres, and high/medium security hospitals.

Our Under 18 Fast Feedback programme is open for entries all year. Please note, there is now a special Under 18s Entry Form.

Koestler Arts continues in partnership with Synergy Theatre Project to deliver the Stage Play category. Synergy are offering playwriting workshops to support entries. If you are interested in Synergy coming to your prison then contact neil@synergytheatreproject.co.uk.

All Stage Play entries will be read and judged by a team of theatre professionals and ex-prisoners. Every entry will receive written feedback. The winners will be announced in October, followed by a prize-giving ceremony and a rehearsed reading in the autumn at a leading London theatre, and in the relevant prison if the 1st prize winner is a serving prisoner. You can read our Stage Play Guidance notes.

Who can enter?

Entrants to the Awards need to be from one of the following groups:

  • Anyone in custody in a UK prison, young offender institution, secure training centre, secure children’s home, immigration removal centre, or high or medium security psychiatric hospital or unit (including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man).
  • Any current client of the National Probation Service or a Community Rehabilitation Company, a Youth Offending Service, the Scottish Criminal Justice Social Work Service or their equivalents elsewhere in the UK.
  • Any UK citizen currently in a prison overseas (must submit via Prisoners Abroad).
  • You may enter as an individual or as a group.

What can I enter?

  • You can enter original work in any of the artforms listed in the guidance notes.
  • Entries can be produced by individuals or groups.
  • The work must be from the last 12 months.
  • We will accept a maximum of 5 entries per entrant or per group.
  • We do not accept paintings or drawings copied from other paintings or drawings.
  • Do not enter work that includes your name in the artwork or on the back.

How do I enter?

  • Fill in one entry form (or Under 18s entry form) for each entry. You are welcome to photocopy the entry form.
  • Ask an authorised member of staff to sign each entry form and give their contact details.
  • We cannot accept your entry if it is not signed by a member of staff. In prisons and secure settings, the member of staff supporting the entry must be an employee of the establishment (not a visiting artist or employee of an external education provider). It could be an officer, tutor, or librarian for example. In the community, the member of staff should be a probation officer or other professional case worker.
  • Pack your work carefully so that it reaches us safely. Very large, heavy, fragile or valuable items should be delivered and collected by hand. Many establishments send a van of entries each year – ask if this happens at your establishments.
  • For some artforms you may enter by sending photographs. Please read the guidance notes  for more information.
  • You can send items up to 2kg free by posting them to FREEPOST Koestler Arts.


One of our aims at Koestler Arts is to demonstrate that the arts are beneficial to offenders, secure patients and detainees. We need evidence to show to funders and policy makers. We would be very grateful if you agreed to help with this by completing the monitoring section on the entry form. Any research carried out will use your anonymised
data only and the published research will never identify individuals.

Koestler Awards timeline



Deadline for all entries to reach Koestler Arts Centre

june july

June - July

Judging takes place at the Koestler Arts Centre



UK Awards results published on our website 

sep nov

September - November

UK exhibition at Southbank Centre



All UK Awards certificates and prizes posted out



Sales money sent out

Dec – march

December - March

Entries returned to entrants and next year’s Awards forms and guidance available