Standing on the Edge

Co-curated by a group of learners from HM Prison Isle of Wight

7 October 2023 – 13 January 2024
John Hansard Gallery, Southampton

We were delighted to exhibit a selection of work entered into the 2023 Koestler Awards from the South West and Hampshire region at John Hansard Gallery in 2023. Around 80 pieces of artwork, music and writing were selected for display in this exhibition by a group of 10 learners at HMP Isle of Wight.

In July, our Outreach Team spent a week with an art class at HMP Isle of Wight, showing them Koestler entries from the region and asking them to co-curate this exhibition. The group carefully considered around 500 works, picking out those that particularly spoke to them as individuals and identifying themes that tied these together to come to a final selection, which they then pitched to Koestler’s Director of Arts and John Hansard Gallery’s Senior Curator.

While the group’s primary focus lay beyond depictions of prison life, and rather with works evoking memories and hopes for the future, it was still important to them to show the everyday reality of prison. A smaller number of artworks reflect the difficulties faced by many prisoners and the resulting impact on their mental health.

The title of the exhibition, Standing on the Edge, was chosen from a drawing in the show, and reflects this duality of the exhibition.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing the quality and technical ability of the artists. In particular I liked the paintings, pictures, sculptures and poems I felt put across a message or an emotion effectively.” – Co-curator from HMP Isle of Wight

You can read more about the whole project, including the curation sessions and the involvement of a wider group of learners at HMP Isle of Wight in our blog post.


You can watch our exhibition film here

Watch here


Listen to the music featured in this year’s exhibition.

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

Listen here

Koestler Voices: In Conversation

13 November

We were lucky enough to meet with researchers from the University of Southampton to host a discussion and Q&A about our new anthology, ‘Koestler Voices: New Poetry from Prisons Vol. 4’, at the John Hansard Gallery. Joined by Professors from the University’s Criminal Law & International Legal Studies department, we chatted about creative responses to the criminal justice system, and the power of writing in secure settings.