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 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.

  • Groups and Societies

Stories, Socks & Jay Cloths, HM Prison and Young Offender Institution Low Newton, John Crockett Highly Commended Award for Themed Category: Interlude, 2019

Groups and Societies

Get Involved

There are lots of ways that your group, society, club or even your group of friends can get involved with Koestler Arts.

By supporting us through your local group or society, you can help us to open doors for some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised individuals in your community.

Each year, the Koestler Awards reaches over 3,500 individuals across 290 establishments around the UK. Through our arts mentoring, exhibitions, family engagement and employment programmes, we are able to improve the skills and confidence of our entrants, which can aid employability and rehabilitation.

Being creative has opened up a new set of doors to me. In fact, if Koestler was the front door, then it opened up to reveal a long corridor of other doors; a line of opportunities waiting to be explored, each door a different medium to investigate, past my present and into my future.

Koestler Awards entrant

Exhibition Tours

Koestler Arts holds exhibitions and events across the UK each year, showcasing the talent and potential of prisoners and detainees to the public.

We offer free guided tours of our exhibitions, given by curators, our specially trained ex-prisoner exhibition hosts, or by Koestler staff.

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[Our host was] very articulate and expressive and spent time to answer questions we had… He described the artworks eloquently but also portrayed his experiences with a sense of humility and gratitude. Both my friend and I are teachers working with some challenging pupils and [our host] helped us to empathise further with them.

Visitor to the 2018 exhibition ‘I’m Still Here’

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Feedback Days

As well as sending participation certificates to all Koestler Awards entrants, we also send written feedback. Entrants tell us the feedback they receive on their work is one of the most valued parts of the process.

The Koestler Awards have given me hope. Each year, Koestler gives me something to work towards and the feedback is something I look forward to for months.

Many individuals volunteer with us to write feedback, but we also welcome groups.

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Writing feedback is a unique opportunity to see the fascinating and diverse range of artwork entered into the Koestler Awards each year, and to encourage and motivate some of society’s most disadvantaged and marginalised individuals.

If your workplace offers time off each year to volunteer, why not come with your colleagues to the Koestler Arts Centre, and make a real difference to the entrants who receive your comments? Could your group or society organise a day trip to our arts centre to write feedback? The more the merrier!

We will give advice on what to write, and can organise your day so that you write about an artform that you feel confident with, whether it’s painting, poetry or needlework.

The words of encouragement you’ve included with my 5 awards (of which I’m very proud) have given me a tremendous lift and for that, in this darkest period of my life, I really cannot thank you enough. I mean that.

Koestler Awards Entrant 2018

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If your group or society has a programme of talks or lectures, a member of Koestler Arts staff would be happy to come and talk to your members about our work.

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We can organise a tailor-made talk about the history of Koestler Arts, our work with prisoners, secure patients and detainees, and the challenges involved in making art in secure settings.

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Name an Award

Giving a name to a Koestler Award is a great way for groups and societies to support our work. You can specify which artform you would like your award to go to, and nominate a prison or other secure establishment in your local area.

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You will receive a copy of your award-winning artwork and invitations to exclusive supporter events and exhibition openings throughout the year. Most of all, you will be helping us continue our work motivating and raising the self-worth of those who need it most.

Learn more about the scheme here.

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    Exhibition ToursFeedback DaysTalksName an Award

      Human Squared , HMYOI Aylesbury, Arts Society Chiltern Hills Area Highly Commended Award for Pastel 2018

      Our society is very pleased to support such a worthwhile project.

      Arts Society Malvern Hills

      We started this award in 2006, and are very pleased to be associated with such a good programme and hope that the useful work that your organisation carries out continues to grow.

      Art Society Greater London Area