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

Painting From Memory, HM Prison Shotts, Scotland Platinum Audience Choice Award


Each year, as well as sending participation certificates to all Koestler Awards entrants, we also send feedback on thousands of pieces of fine art, music, writing, craft and film. Koestler Awards entrants tell us the feedback they receive on their work is one of the most important parts of the awards experience. Feedback can boost confidence, and provides entrants with expert advice on how to develop their work. With the help of lots and lots of volunteers over the summer months and visitors to our exhibitions, we aim to give written feedback to all entrants.

Koestler Critics

Feedback writing begins during the judging process, with Koestler Awards judges writing responses to Awards-winning work. We then build on this during the summer with the support of our Koestler Critics, volunteers with expertise in one of the Koestler Award artforms, who write feedback focused on helping our entrants celebrate success while also providing artwork specific advice on how the entrant can improve their skills. Feedback is particularly important for entrants who are creating artworks, such as drawing, writing and crafts, in their cells without the support of education staff.

If you are an artist, writer, musician or performer, and would be interested in becoming a Koestler Critic, please keep an eye on our Jobs & Volunteering page for more information.

I believe the best avenue for rehabilitation is in the discovery of a genuine passion for something in life. I find this in writing and the feedback and encouragement your organisation give to prisoners cannot be measured in money.

– Koestler Awards entrant

Visitor Comment Cards

The Koestler Exhibitions also generate feedback and messages from members of the public for our entrants. We create feedback cards for visitors to fill with responses to their favourite pieces in our Exhibitions. We pass these anonymised cards onto the entrants. Our entrants tell us reading the public’s response to their work is a huge boost; comment cards are treasured and re-read many times, with entrants using them as something positive to focus on when they are in low spirits.

The feedback cards to the inmates mean more than words can say. Certainly to me they are cherished more than any prize.

– Koestler Awards entrant


The feedback I was given has really filled me with confidence to continue with poetry/writing. It was great that I was able to get across the different characters of my dogs and how loved they were. Thank you.

– Koestler Awards Entrant