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

Digital Art, HM Prison Wakefield, Commended Award for Digital Art, 2017

How to enter the Koestler Awards

2018 Koestler Awards

The 2018 Koestler Awards opened for entries in January 2018; with Friday 13 April 2018 as the deadline for submissions.

The themed category for 2018 is ‘Connections’. We invited our entrants to have a go at producing a poem, drawing, painting, song or any other Koestler artform using the word ‘Connections’ as a theme.

This year the Koestler Trust has partnered with Synergy Theatre Project to develop the Stage Play category. All Stage Play entries will be read and judged by a team of theatre professionals and ex-prisoners. Every entry will receive written feedback. The winners will be announced in September, followed by a prize-giving ceremony and a rehearsed reading in the autumn at a leading London theatre, and in the relevant prison if the 1st prize winner is a serving prisoner. You can read our Stage Play guidelines here.

Entry Forms and Guidance Notes are available to download from our website. Hard copies are sent out to prisons, young offender institutions, secure training centres, secure children’s homes, immigration removal centres, and high/medium security hospitals.

Our Under 18 Fast Feedback programme is open for entries all year, and we will we be accepting entries for the 2019 Koestler Awards from January next year, with a deadline of Thursday 4 April.

Who can enter?

Entrants to the Awards need to be from one of the following groups:

  • Any current inmate of a UK prison, young offender institution, secure training centre, secure children’s home, immigration removal centre, or high or medium security psychiatric hospital or unit (including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man).
  • Any current client of the National Probation Service or a Community Rehabilitation Company, a Youth Offending Service, the Scottish Criminal Justice Social Work Service or their equivalents elsewhere in the British Isles.
  • Any UK citizen currently in a prison overseas (must submit via Prisoners Abroad).

What can I enter?

  • You can enter original work in any of the artforms listed in the guidance notes.
  • Entries can be produced by individuals or groups.
  • The work must be from the last 12 months.
  • We will accept a maximum of 5 entries per entrant or per group.
  • We do not accept paintings or drawings copied from other paintings or drawings.
  • Do not enter work that includes your name in the artwork or on the back.

How do I enter?

  • Fill in one entry form for each entry. You are welcome to photocopy the entry form.
  • Ask an authorised member of staff to sign each entry form and give their contact details.
  • We cannot accept your entry if it is not signed by a member of staff. In prisons and secure settings, the member of staff supporting the entry must be an employee of the establishment (not a visiting artist or employee of an external education provider). It could be an officer, tutor, or librarian for example. In the community, the member of staff should be a probation officer or other professional case worker.
  • Pack your work carefully so that it reaches us safely. Very large, heavy, fragile or valuable items should be delivered and collected by hand. Many establishments send a van of entries each year – ask if this happens at your establishments.
  • For some artforms you may enter by sending photographs. Please read the guidance notes for more information.
  • You can send items up to 2kg free by posting them to FREEPOST Koestler Trust.


One of our aims at the Koestler Trust is to demonstrate that the arts are beneficial to offenders, secure patients and detainees. We need evidence to show to funders and policy makers. We would be very grateful if you agreed to help with this by completing the monitoring section on the entry form. Any research carried out will use your anonymised
data only and the published research will never identify individuals.


Koestler Awards Timeline



Deadline for all entries to reach Koestler Arts Centre

june july

June - July

Judging takes place at the Koestler Arts Centre



UK Awards results published on our website 

sep nov

September - November

UK exhibition at Southbank Centre



All UK Awards certificates and prizes posted out



Sales money sent out

Dec – march

December - March

Entries returned to entrants and next year’s Awards forms and guidance available

I am now very keen to take my artwork to the next level which I would never have done if I hadn't won an award.

Koestler Award-winning entrant