No Lockdown in the Imagination

Outdoor Art Installation

12 November – 13 December 2020
Southbank Centre

No Lockdown in the Imagination was an outdoor installation of artwork by people in the criminal justice system, featuring pieces entered into the 2020 Koestler Awards.

Due to restrictions caused by the pandemic, the exhibition had to take place in the windows of the Southbank Centre. Visual art and poetry were emblazoned on the windows of Southbank Centre. Additionally, audio performances of poetry and spoken word entries were played through outdoor speakers. Audiences could also view the work online via our digital exhibition gallery of photos, videos and audio captions read by our exhibition hosts.

Despite the backdrop of national, local and prison lockdowns, the 2020 Koestler Awards still managed to attract over 6,500 entries. Using limited materials and unlimited imaginations, people across our criminal justice system kept producing artistic work, often alone in their cells, as a way to keep themselves going. This exhibition celebrated their achievements and shared their continued creativity with the outside world.

The title of our installation quotes Lemn Sissay MBE, whose blog entry on 3rd May 2020 read: “The reason prisoners can create extraordinary art and poetry is because there is no lockdown in the imagination.” Koestler Arts is grateful for his permission to use his words.

“It has been such a tonic and such a positive way to spend time during this pandemic, especially as much of my work has focused on other themes in life, distracting me from the news all around us right now.”

– Koestler Awards entrant, 2020


Check out our No Lockdown in the Imagination exhibition film to see behind the scenes of this exhibition.

Watch here


Listen to some of the poetry and spoken word pieces from the exhibition in our YouTube playlist. You can also hear our exhibition hosts talking through some of the visual pieces on display, and sharing artists comments.

Listen here