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.

  • Arts Mentoring

Straight Lines, HM Prison Wandsworth, Painting 2018

The Arts of Desistance

The Impact of the Koestler Arts Mentoring Scheme

Reports on the impact of our work include The Arts of Desistance, (Dr Leonidas Cheliotis, London School of Economics, 2014), which studied the impact of our arts mentoring scheme over the course of six years.

Since 2007, we have supported ex-offenders in continuing their artistic engagement by matching them with a specially trained arts mentor.

The mentees developed greater confidence in their abilities, became more driven to achieve success, conceptualised their future in ways opposed to crime, and increased their expectations of staying free from crime. These are all very important outcomes, given that the way individuals think and talk about themselves shapes their future behaviour.

Dr Leonidas Cheliotis

The research found long-term positive effects on the mentored offenders, especially pro-social attitudes that reduce the likelihood of reoffending. Unemployment among the sample group fell from 50% to 33%. Of the total of 94 mentees, 68% had been in prison for serious violent or sexual offences; 14% were known to have reoffended or been recalled to prison during or since their arts mentoring.

To coincide with the academic launch, we produced a brochure showcasing the talent and achievements of Koestler mentees from 2007–2014.


Being mentored has given me the confidence to believe in my ability and the courage to share my poems outside of just my family and friends.

Koestler Mentee