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 8,000 entries a year – inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work for achievement 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

Category Archive: Blog

  • Painting

    Guest Blog: Different Strokes for Different Judges As our largest visual arts category, the judging of the Koestler Awards painting entries is no mean feat. With four judges and six members of staff and volunteers, we aimed to ensure that each one of the hundreds of entries received attention and the opportunity to succeed. On […]


  • Themed Category: Connections

    Connecting the Dots with Reggie Yates As a British broadcaster, writer and director, Reggie Yates is well known for his entertainment presenting, as well as his BBC documentaries including the award-winning Extreme series in Russia, South Africa, the UK and Australia. For his series The Insider, Reggie spent time inside some of the world’s most […]


  • Performance

    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 […]


  • Printmaking

    Making your mark Printmaking is often a particularly strong category in the Koestler Awards, with lots of bold and graphic designs. Returning judges Gill Saunders, a senior curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and artist Susan Aldworth were impressed by the variety of works this year, including imaginative works using collage and complex layering. […]


  • Handmade Books

    Judging books by their covers… and much more Handmade books is a category that sits right on the boundary between fine art and craft. Each year we get beautiful examples of skilful book-binding as well as experimental and architectural artists’ books. Returning judges Mike Abrahams & Deb Rindl, both makers of artists’ books themselves, discuss […]


  • Murals and Wall Hangings

    The Writing on the Walls As curator at Art on the Underground, London Underground’s contemporary art programme, Jessica Vaughan is no stranger to large-scale works requiring team effort and imagination. She joined us to judge our Murals and Wall Hangings category at a time when her team are embarking on a murals related project in […]


  • Braille

    Guest Blog: Opening Up the world of Braille We interrupt your regularly scheduled programme to bring you our 1st guest volunteer blog! Robert is a dedicated Koestler volunteer and former auctioneer and valuer at Sotheby’s. This year he visited Eleanor Southwood at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), to help her in the […]


  • Computer Generated Music

    Hot Chip’s Hot Takes A party vibe descended on Koestler House for a few hours this week, as Computer Generated Music judges, Hot Chip, played the music entries through our mini boom box speakers. The Grammy and Mercury Prize nominated band were able to give top tier feedback to entrants, and they remarked that some […]


  • Handmade Greetings Cards

    Award Season’s Greetings As returning judges who have overseen the Handmade Greetings Cards category for five years running, Ellen Kirkhope and Melissa Taylor have been able to observe changing trends in artistry and style. From original mark-making to using recycled objects for collages, this category allows entrants to be as creative as possible within the […]


  • Pastels

    Soft Pastels, Hard Decisions Almost halfway through our 2018 judging period, we were joined by Royal Academy tutor Maciej Urbanek and returning judge and multi-media artist Angela Findlay to judge the varied and vibrant pastel category. They enlighten us on their experience, discussing the difficulty of pinning down the judging criteria for such a varied […]


  • Radio Play

    Sounding Off with Katie Redford Among the first categories to be judged this week was Radio Play. For this small yet intriguing group of works, we were joined by writer and actor, and Lily Pargetter on the The Archers, Katie Redford. It was the diversity and ingenuity of this category that surprised her the most. […]


  • First Day of Judging

    Matchstick Models – A Match Made in Heaven The Koestler Awards 2018 judging period has kicked off, with matchstick model expert, Andrew Wright, judging the category which he loves dearly. As a returning judge who has supported the Koestler Trust for over a decade, Andrew never ceases to be amazed by the time, effort and […]