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 50 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.

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The Koestler Trust at the Venice Biennale 2013

The Koestler Trust was invited to partner with Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller and the British Council to take art by serving prisoners to the 2013 Venice Biennale. We helped facilitate workshops in HM Prison Parc, HM Prison Everthorpe, and HM Prison Shotts where ex-servicemen prisoners were asked to create drawings reflecting on their experiences in the military. A selection of these moving and insightful works were shown within the British Pavilion.

The most powerful series of works in the exhibition

The Independent, 2013

The partnership also enabled eight ex-offenders to undertake a study trip to the biennale, where the British Council organised a programme of educational tours and Deller discussed his work for the British Pavilion with them. On returning to the UK, each participant was given a one-to-one advice session about future options in art education or employment. Group members also produced an artistic response to the Biennale and wrote a blog about their experiences.

Bringing ex-offenders to Venice, to work with us at the British Pavilion, makes real the theme of social justice that runs through Jeremy Deller’s exhibition. We are delighted that our partnership with the Koestler Trust enables us to take this bold and innovative step.

Andrea Rose, Director of Visual Arts, British Council

War Frames: prisoners depict their experiences in Iraq at the Venice Biennale