2023 Koestler Awards Judging Roundup

2023 Koestler Awards Judging Roundup

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“All the artwork I have seen today, NOT JUST the ones I have chosen for awards are small beacons of hope and light.” – Bob and Roberta Smith, Pastel judge

As the summer of Koestler Awards judging has drawn to a close, here’s a look back at some of its highlights. This year, we had 76 judges visit us to judge our 52 categories of visual arts, music, and writing. We hosted them over 25 days in July and August. Judges for the 2023 Awards included a talented and diverse array of artists, activists, and writers including Katie Piper, Rich Miller, Hot Chip, Jeremy Deller, Misan Harriman, Charlotte Hamblin, and Coco Sato.

We got lots of helpful advice for future entrants from our judges, from very specific (‘sandpaper is your friend’ from a furniture judge) to more broadly applicable tips. Many judges encouraged ambition and honesty:
Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to write and believe in the words you have written.” – Chelsea McDonagh, Non-Fiction, Blog, Essay, Article and Review judge, while others emphasised the importance of experimenting and having fun with the process: “Experiment more, try different ways of telling your story and communicating your ideas. Be bold and use your resources.” – Terence Lambert, Drawing Judge

With regards to what set Award-winning pieces apart, judges relayed going with instinct and choosing pieces that elicited strong emotions: “Skill wasn’t really the deciding factor, it was the feeling the piece evoked that counted.” – Jenny Eclair, Painting judge.

Our judges spoke powerfully about the importance of the arts in secure settings and what their experience judging the Awards taught them. Koestler Arts Trustee, artist and curator, Gary Mansfield, who judged the Themed Category: A Day in the Life alongside presenter, writer and charity campaigner, Katie Piper and former Koestler Awards Mentee, Chris Baker, told us “I stood in a room bursting with so much colour, energy and hope; It showed that with a pencil and paper freedom can be achieved, even if just created in that moment.”

Charles Darwent, who judged Drawing, eloquently summed up what he witnessed as ‘the triumph of imagination.’

If you or someone you know is thinking about entering the Awards next year, here are some words of encouragement from Lorna Hamilton Brown, Needlecraft judge: “Don’t compare yourself to anybody else or to work that you saw won an award in previous years. Don’t be put off if you entered before and didn’t win a prize. To have completed work to enter is an achievement.”

We will begin accepting entries again in January 2024. We can’t wait to see what our evermore creative entrants come up with!