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

Mon – Wed 10am – 6pm, Thu – Sun 10am – 9pm* 

Exhibition Space, Level 1, Royal Festival Hall

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

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

Expect 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.

Following the government’s advice on face-covering in crowded areas, we strongly recommend that you wear a face mask out of respect for others. If you’re not able to wear a face covering, please ask for an exemption badge on entry.

* Please note that Southbank Centre will close at 4pm on Friday 5 November and will be closed all day on Tuesday 23 November


Voices from Prison

Friday 26 November, 6.30pm; Level 5 Function Room

Hear 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.

Book tickets now

Exhibition Tours

Mon, Tues, Thurs 5pm, Weds 4pm, Fri – Sat 1.30pm and 6pm; Exhibition Space

A group of ex-prisoner exhibition hosts, employed by Koestler Arts, have been specially trained to help guide visitors around the exhibition. Working alongside Southbank Centre Visitor Assistants, hosts can share their insights about the artworks and use their personal experience to help visitors understand more about where the pieces have come from. Feel free to ask them questions and to take part in one of their exhibition tours.

Free, no booking required except for large groups. Large groups contact sarah@koestlerarts.org.uk

Pop-up shop

Open daily: Mon Tues 12pm 5pm, Weds – Sun 12pm – 6pm; Exhibition Space

Closed during exhibition tours

Hundreds of artworks from this year’s Koestler Awards are for sale and ready to take away at our Pop-Up Art shop. Visitors can 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.