Curated by Joelle Taylor

2 November – 17 December 2023
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY was our 16th annual UK exhibition at the Southbank Centre, featuring nearly 200 artworks across visual, writing and music categories entered into the 2023 Koestler Awards for art in the criminal justice system, by individuals in prisons, secure mental health facilities, immigration removal centres, young offender institutions and on community sentences across the UK. Having worked in prisons for over twenty years, Joelle Taylor’s motivation for this exhibition was to showcase the talent and imagination that springs from secure settings. Choosing from over 8,000 pieces sent into the 2023 Awards, the poet selected artworks that showcase both excellence and ingenuity. These qualities were shown in different ways by the artists, through concept, skill and story-telling, as well as through the use of unusual materials that highlights their resourcefulness. These included artworks made from crisp packets, prison issue soap, rice, seeds and even clinical waste bags.

Shaped by her own work, Joelle’s focus settled on the idea of vitrines and glass display cases as a way of exploring themes of separation and connection. The title, IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, encouraged visitors to complete the well-known phrase with ‘break glass’. All the artworks were encased in various ways, whether literally or metaphorically, and this design helped draw attention to these themes. Visitors were invited to think about the way we present and look at things and how it feels to be on either side of the glass.


You can watch our exhibition walk-through on our Youtube channel now

Watch now


Listen to the music featured in this year’s exhibition, played through telephones and headphones.

Age recommendation: 18+ (May contain language some people might find upsetting)

Listen here

From the curator

Hear from the curator Joelle Taylor about this year’s exhibition, and take a look at some of the pieces on display.

Watch here


This exhibition is made possible by the generous support from individuals, trusts and foundations, businesses and organisations.

Special thanks to our exhibition partners, the Southbank Centre, and our exhibition sponsors: Elysium Healthcare, Sodexo Justice Services and Serco.

The writing categories, our biennial poetry anthology and the Voices from Prison even are kindly supported by the T.S. Eliot Foundation.

The Visitors’ Choice Awards for the public’s favourite exhibited artworks have been funded by Doughty Street Chambers.