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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  • The I and the We

Sitting Together, HM Prison Bronzefield, Weavers’ Company Platinum Award for Textile Art

The I and the We

2021 UK exhibition at Southbank Centre

Curated by Camille Walala and Sarah Ihler-Meyer

29 October – 5 December 2021

Exhibition Space, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall

Curated by artist Camille Walala and her sister, curator Sarah Ihler-Meyer, The I and the We presented around 200 powerful artworks selected from over 6,400 entries to the 2021 Koestler Awards.

The 2021 Koestler Arts UK exhibition of art, music and writing by people in criminal justice settings was back in Level 1 of Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.

The exhibition showcased quirky artworks made of found materials, works full of humour and joy, as well as pieces reflecting on loss, relationships and prison life, all created during the pandemic.


Voices from Prison

Friday 26 November, 6.30pm; Level 5 Function Room

Powerful performances of written work from the 2020 and 2021 Koestler Awards. Hosted by artist and curator Gary Mansfield, a previous Koestler Award-winner and host of The Ministry of Arts Podcast.

*Recording coming soon*

Exhibition Tours

Daily; Exhibition Space

A group of ex-prisoner exhibition hosts, employed by Koestler Arts, were specially trained to help guide visitors around the exhibition. Working alongside Southbank Centre Visitor Assistants, hosts shared their insights about the artworks and used their personal experience to help visitors understand more about where the pieces have come from.

Pop-up shop

Open daily; Exhibition Space

Closed during exhibition tours

Hundreds of artworks from this year’s Koestler Awards were for sale and ready to take away at our Pop-Up Art shop. Visitors could also find Koestler Arts merchandise and publications, including and the charity’s brand-new poetry anthology Koestler Voices Vol. 3. The book showcases insightful poetry written by those in criminal justice settings during the challenges of the past two years, and features a foreword by poet Jackie Kay.

Visit our online shop


Listen to the music from the exhibition, The I and the We, through the Soundcloud playlist below.

Film and Animation

Watch the three short films from the exhibition, The I and the We in the YouTube playlist below.

View the artworks from the exhibition, The I and the We, in the gallery below.