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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  • University of Surrey X Koestler Arts

Toffee, HM Prison Dartmoor, Commended Award for Painting, 2021

University of Surrey X Koestler Arts

Exhibition partnership with the University of Surrey, exploring food in women’s prisons

Opening January 2023 at South Hill Park Arts Centre

Koestler Arts is partnering with the University of Surrey to showcase an art exhibition all about food in women’s prisons and other settings at South Hill Park in Berkshire. This arts centre is home to two theatres, a cinema, artist studios and gallery spaces, set within sprawling parkland.

Surrey’s Department of Sociology are beginning a large research project called ‘Doing Porridge: Understanding women’s experiences of food in prison’. Their work will explore food practices in prison, as well as the social and cultural meanings of food for individuals. They’ll be doing this through interviews, observations, focus groups and art workshops in several UK women’s prisons.

Towards the end of this project, Koestler Arts will present a public exhibition of artwork on the theme of food – a combination of art made in the project’s creative workshops and pieces entered into the 2022 Koestler Awards. Food is often a popular topic for Koestler Awards entrants and for this year’s Koestler Awards we have made our themed category ‘Taste’ to encourage even more entries. Visual art, writing and music will all be considered for the show.

We’ll update this page as the project develops.


Taking Part

2022 Koestler Awards artwork by anyone in a women’s prison will be considered for this exhibition, to match Surrey’s research focus.

An image of a watercolour painting of a family sitting down to a meal together
Family Meal, HM Prison & Young Offender Institution Cornton Vale, Themed Category: Together, 2021

As Koestler Awards eligibility usually extends to other settings, we’ll also welcome food-themed entries from women in secure hospitals, immigration removal centres, young offender institutions, secure children’s homes and on probation. (Please note, if you are in one of these settings you will need to identify as a woman on your Koestler Awards entry form, so that we can find your work).

Visual art, writing and music from these groups are all eligible. We are looking forward to seeing your new artwork this year!