The art awards scheme for offenders, secure patients and detainees

We’re the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. We’ve been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for over 55 years.

Our awards receive over 7,000 entries a year – inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work towards positive achievements and transform their lives. Our national exhibition attracts 20,000 visitors – showing the public the talent and potential of offenders and people in secure settings.

We have no endowment or capital – our work depends entirely on donations.

Read more about us


Acting the Part

This year our Performance category was judged by award winning comedian, actor, writer and improviser, Cariad Lloyd. Best known for her podcast, Griefcast, as well as her appearances on Peep Show, Qi and Have I Got News For You, Cariad is very experienced in facing an audience. For her day at the Koestler Trust the roles were reversed, and as a first-time judge she was very impressed by the diversity of Koestler entries into this category, with everyone interpreting the idea of ‘Performance’ in unique ways. Whilst giving valuable feedback to the entrants, Cariad was also able take away a few important reminders and lessons for her own work.

How did you find judging the Koestler Awards as a first time Judge?

I really enjoyed it. It was really amazing to see so many different types of performance. From poetry to magic, to storytelling, to music. It was really amazing.

How did you navigate giving awards for the different kinds of work?

I just tried to always judge based on the performance. Did I feel that they were speaking to me? Did I feel emotionally connected to what they were saying? Am I being emotionally changed by what they’re trying to tell me?

Did anything really stand out for you?

There’s some amazing story telling, such as Dads doing specific stories for their kids – that was really touching. It felt really nice to be part of that process, of him saying ‘this is for you’. And them doing the silly voices – it was really funny. The really good ones were the ones that went to town, really went for it, really enjoyed it, and you felt like you were being read a story.

Is there anything you would take away from what you heard today?

It’s a good reminder that you don’t need lots of bells and whistles. You just need to need to emotionally connect to your material. The best ones were just when you really felt what they were trying to tell you.

Is there anything that you’d like to see more of in this category?

I really enjoyed the stories. They were really lovely. Just people reading, using voices, and dedicated to kids. There was music, and really good production values. It felt like a lovely thing. I think it’d be nice to see more videos. There wasn’t much visual, a lot of it was audio. It would be nice to see some short films, but I know that requires equipment.

Do you have advice for people that might want to improve their performance skills?

I think the biggest thing would be just taking your time, and pace. Just learning to give your audience time to catch up with you. Because you might know a story or song, but we don’t, it’s the first time we’re hearing it. So, don’t forget that your audience are behind you, so you need to give us a chance to catch up with wherever you are at in your material. Don’t be afraid to just go slow and take your time.