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 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.

  • Koestler Voices

Still Life with Spider Plan, HM Prison Humber, Painting 2017

Koestler Voices

Our anthology of poetry from the Koestler Awards

Following on from the popularity of volume 1, we have put together the second edition of our poetry anthology Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons, available now from our online shop.

Featuring poems entered into the 2018 and 2019 Koestler Awards, with a foreword by George the Poet, the anthology gives a glimpse into the thoughts and experiences of those spending time ‘inside’, showcasing the talent in these secure settings to the public and giving a platform to individuals whose voices often go unheard.

The Koestler Awards receive over 1,000 poems each year, making it our most popular category. While art materials can be difficult to get hold of in prison, everyone is entitled to paper and something to write with.

Arthur Koestler, who co-founded the charity in 1962, found writing an invaluable escape and source of solace during his own time in prison. The Koestler Awards encourage people in custody to use creativity as a tool for self-expression; increasing wellbeing, engagement with education and personal development.

Many of our entrants have written about the powerful impact writing has had on their lives. This year’s poetry judges also told us about their experiences teaching poetry in prisons, seeing how writing can unlock memories and emotions.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our new anthology. We were delighted to to have exceeded our target of over £5000 in donations! With your help, we will be sending copies of our new anthology to over 120 prisons and establishments across the UK.

Our fundraiser is now over but, if you’d still like to support our work, we would appreciate any gift you can make.

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Click here to read more writing from the Koestler Awards