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.

Read more about us

  • Soul Journey to Truth

    HOME, Manchester

Frustration, HM Prison & Young Offender Institution Forest Bank, First-time Entrant Award for Drawing, 2020

Soul Journey to Truth

A Koestler Arts exhibition for the North West of England

HOME, Manchester, as part of the Ripples of Hope Festival

17 May – 6 June 2021
Curated by Lady Unchained

Soul Journey to Truth was an exhibition that shone a light on the creative talent within prisons, secure settings, and people on probation in the North West of England.

The exhibition shared a selection of fragile and powerful stories through artwork from the 2020 Koestler Awards. Many of the pieces on display were created during the pandemic.

Lady Unchained (Brenda Birungi) carefully curated the exhibition. It showcased over 135 artworks ranging from drawings, paintings, to writing and music. All the artwork was entered into the 2020 Koestler Awards, our annual scheme to promote artistic achievement in the criminal justice system.

Soul Journey to Truth took its title from the word Sojourner, meaning a person who resides temporarily in a place, and from Sojourner Truth (b.1797 – 1883). Truth was a Black American abolitionist and women’s rights activist who was born into slavery in New York. She escaped to freedom in 1826.

The exhibition was divided into themes of self-reflection, nature, animals, and a dedication to Black History. Visitors could explore art that imagines hopeful futures and reflects diverse voices.

An image of Soul Journey to Truth curator Brenda AKA Lady Unchained
Lady Unchained. Photo by Tom Pilston

Meet the Curator: Lady Unchained

Lady Unchained is an acclaimed London-based performance artist and poet. She is the Founder and Creative Director of Unchained Poetry, an artistic platform for artists with lived experience of the criminal justice system.

Her mission is to prove that there is life after prison and challenge the ‘ex-offender’ label through creativity.

In the lead up to the exhibition, Bren O’Callaghan from Manchester’s HOME sat down to chat with Lady Unchained to find out what the exhibition means to her.

About HOME and Ripples of Hope Festival

HOME is Manchester’s centre for international contemporary culture. Since opening in 2015, HOME has welcomed over 2.9 million visitors to see thrilling theatre and dance shows, experience great independent films from across the world, dive into the new art in the galleries, relax in the café and browse the bookshop.

Ripples of Hope Festival celebrates the power of people to make human rights a reality for all. Launched in May 2021 with this exhibition, the festival takes place on 15-19 September 2021 at HOME and with Feasts of Hope in Greater Manchester. Presented by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

Click on the thumbnails below to explore the different sections of the exhibition.

Please note that this exhibition contains adult themes and language which some may find distressing – parental discretion is therefore advised for younger audiences.