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

Bob & Roberta Smith in conversation with Prof. David Wilson at Snail Porridge: The Koestler Exhibition for the North West, 2014

Recent exhibitions

The Koestler Trust shares the artwork generated by the Koestler Awards with audiences across the UK. We have held exhibitions in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cardiff, Birmingham, Colchester, Manchester and Gateshead and taken Koestler writing to the Bridlington Festival.

Our UK Exhibitions take place annually at the Southbank Centre in London and have included Inside curated by Antony Gormley (2017), We Are All Human curated by Benjamin Zephaniah (2016), and Catching Dreams curated by past Koestler Awards entrants (2014).

We seek to represent our entrants and their families in everything we do. We often empower entrants and other groups to take charge of presenting the entries to the public through exhibitions. Our recent exhibition at Firstsite in Colchester, Chip Night, was curated by local young people. Our 2017 exhibition Beyond the Door at mac Birmingham was curated by Walsall Youth Justice Service. Serving prisoners, Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), victims of crime, secure children’s home residents and mentoring programme participants have all taken the lead on presenting the work and bringing their own unique perspectives to our public programmes.

We are currently planning programmes with Southbank Centre in London, Turner Contemporary in Margate, House of St Barnabas in London, Snape Maltings in Suffolk, and Millennium Gallery in Sheffield.

If you are a festival, arts venue or arts organisation and would like to discuss a partnership please email Fiona Curran, Director of Arts fcurran@koestlertrust.org.uk.