Unlock the talent inside

Since 1962 the Koestler Awards have played a unique, national role in motivating prisoners, secure hospital patients and immigration detainees to take part in the arts. The Koestler Awards are simple and powerful – we reward achievement, build self-confidence and broaden horizons for some of society’s most disadvantaged and marginalised people.

Our work harnesses the uniquely transformative power of the arts to help individuals learn the skills and gain the confidence to live creative, positive and productive lives. Each year we receive more than 7,000 entries from over 3,500 entrants across the UK in 52 categories. More than 2,000 Awards are granted by over 100 esteemed judges, and each year culminates in a curated exhibition at Southbank Centre which showcases the incredible power of the arts to transform lives.

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  • Writing

The things I miss, HM Prison Littlehey, Silver Award for Poem, 2019 (excerpt)


Poetry and prose have a long tradition in secure establishments and the criminal justice system. Requiring only a pen and paper, we receive thousands of written entries each year. Poetry is the most popular type of submission – with over 1,000 poems submitted annually across the poem, anthology, poetry collection and themed categories.

Other written categories in the Koestler Awards include flash fiction and short story; longer fiction and novel; non-fiction; blog; essay; article and review; life story; braille; poem; poetry collection; anthology; stage play; radio play; screenplay and songwriting.

You can read a selection of written work from previous Koestler Awards, with writing tips and ideas to inspire you to pick up a pencil yourself, in our booklet Voices from Prison (pdf).

Online Gallery

Scroll down and click on the titles to read some previous Koestler Award-winning pieces of writing.