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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  • Power: Freedom to Create

Mary the Pigeon, Atkinson Secure Unit, Commended Award for Printmaking, 2020

Power: Freedom to Create

National Justice Museum, Nottingham

21 May – 31 October 2021

Power: Freedom to Create was produced by the National Justice Museum in partnership with Koestler Arts.

This exhibition brought together works from the National Justice Museum’s Collection, selected entries from the 2020 Koestler Awards and six contemporary commissions which explored themes of power and creativity. It was the first time Koestler Arts has exhibited artwork alongside a historic museum collection.

The idea for the exhibition began with a small yet powerful artwork from the Museum’s collection – a characterful portrait sculpted from a bar of soap by someone in prison. Dating from the 1970s, this tiny artwork inspired discussions about power, creativity and empathy, shaping the foundations of the exhibition. 

Koestler Arts contributed 23 artworks to the show, entered into the 2020 Koestler Awards. Selected from around the UK during virtual curation sessions, each artwork spoke to the theme of power and creativity.

The National Justice Museum commissioned six artists and writers in response to the themes of creativity, freedom and power. Artist and designer Bruce Asbestos created a virtual catwalk presentation; academic Dr Antoinette Burchill wrote about power for the exhibition guide, and Ofilaye created photographic responses to the soap carvings. There was an artistic response through the lens of invisible disability from Rachel Parry; a new poem by Dave Wood, and a video performance by whatsthebigmistry. 

Online Gallery

If you weren’t able to visit the show in person, a virtual version of the exhibition is available via the National Justice Museum website. Navigate around the space and explore all the artworks in the show.