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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  • How to enter the Koestler Awards

AAAAARGH!!, Bolton Probation Office, Phillip King Bronze Award for Sculpture, Unilink Gold Visitors' Choice Award

How to enter the Koestler Awards

The submission window for the 2021 Koestler Awards is now open. This year’s deadline is 22 April 2021.

  • Who can enter the Koestler Awards?

    The Koestler Awards are open to:

    – anyone in custody in a UK prison, young offender institution, secure training centre, secure children’s home, immigration removal centre, or high or medium security psychiatric hospital or unit (including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man).

    – any current client of the National Probation Service or a Community Rehabilitation Company, a Youth Offending Service, the Scottish Criminal Justice Social Work Service or their equivalents elsewhere in the UK.

    – any UK citizen currently in a prison overseas (must submit via Prisoners Abroad).

    Artworks may be submitted as an individual or a group entry.

  • What can be entered?

    Original work can be entered in any of the artforms listed in our guidance notes, up to a maximum of 5 in total.

    The work should be from the last 12 months. However, if you made work last year and couldn’t enter it because of the impact of Covid-19, you can enter it in 2021 instead – as long as you didn’t already enter it in 2020.

    Do not enter artworks copied directly from other artworks.

    Do not enter work that includes your name in the artwork or work made through purchased kits.

  • What artforms do you accept?

    We currently accept artworks across 52 different categories. Take a look at our artwork gallery for examples from previous years and download our guidance notes for a full list of this year’s categories.

  • What is the Themed Category?

    Each year we invite our entrants to have a go at producing a poem, drawing, painting, song or any other Koestler artform inspired by our Themed Category. This year’s theme is ‘Together.’ More information about entering the Themed Category can be found in our guidance notes.

  • How do I enter?

    Entrants can submit up to 5 entries into the Koestler Awards.

    Download entry forms for this year’s Koestler Awards and fill in 1 entry form for each entry.

    You are welcome to photocopy the form.

    Follow the guidance notes for entering, noting that entry forms must be signed-off by an authorised member of staff.

    Send items up to 2kg free using ‘Freepost KOESTLER ARTS’.

    Pack work carefully so that it reaches us safely. The maximum weight limit is 15kg per parcel. Many establishments send a van of entries each year – ask if this happens at your establishment.

  • Will names be made public?

    Entrants and the member of staff signing entry forms can choose to use first name only or remain anonymous. We will make first names public in exhibition only if entrants are aged 18 or over and we have permission on the entry form.

    We ask entrants to think carefully about having first names shown, especially if it may identify entrants as an offender to relatives, employers or the press. We cannot accept responsibility for any repercussions.

    Entrants and the authorised member of staff who signs the entry form should consider if there are sensitivities around a first name being published, particularly concerning victims of a crime or heightened media profile.

    We ask that entrants do not sign artworks with full names, or put it on the back of any artwork, or otherwise reference it in the entry. If this happens, we will need to remove it before exhibition or sale, or may not be able to display the work.

  • What is Fast Feedback?

    All entrants under 18 can receive their certificate and feedback within 4 weeks of entry, and can enter at any point of the year. The parcel containing the entry must be marked ‘Under 18s Fast Feedback Programme’ to be eligible.

    Our Fast Feedback programme for under 18s was developed to address the special circumstance that young people face in the criminal justice sector. Sentences are often short and young people move through the system much more quickly. It provides an opportunity for young people to have their work recognised and celebrated before they move on.

    Read more about the Fast Feedback Programme.

Koestler Awards timeline



Deadline for all entries to reach Koestler Arts Centre

june july

June - July

Judging takes place at the Koestler Arts Centre



UK Awards results published on our website 

sep nov

September - November

UK exhibition at Southbank Centre



All UK Awards certificates and prizes posted out



Sales money sent out

Dec – march

December - March

Entries returned to entrants and next year’s Awards forms and guidance available

Illustrated poster of the timeline for the annual Koestler Arts Award