Art by Offenders in UK

Southbank Centre Presents Award-Winning Art By Women Offenders

09 Nov 2009
Southbank Centre presents the 48th annual Koestler Awards exhibition “Art by Offenders, Secure Patients and Detainees” on show at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre. The exhibition includes some 130 exhibits created by inmates of prisons, young offender institutions, secure hospitals and immigration removal centres across the UK, as well as offenders supervised by probation and youth offending services and British prisoners abroad.

In a departure from previous years, the 2009 show is the first national art exhibition curated by serving prisoners. All the curators are from a women’s prison, giving the selection of 130 works a distinctly female perspective. The six curators were carefully chosen from women nearing the end of their sentences at HM Prison Downview in Surrey. As part of the nine-week educational project, the women have undergone intensive training, selected the exhibits, designed and built the displays and will be giving exhibition talks and tours. Each of the women involved will receive guidance about where to aim next with the new skills that they have learnt.

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director Southbank Centre said, “We are delighted to welcome back the Koestler Trust awards to the Royal Festival Hall, in the second year of a continuing partnership with Southbank Centre. We wholeheartedly support their work and philosophy. Developing the skills to express ideas and emotions through art and craft gives each prisoner and detainee a new sense of what is possible in their life and how they can build a different future for themselves.”

Tim Robertson, Chief Executive the Koestler Trust said, “Given the rising prison population, it may be obvious that the number of artworks entered for Koestler Awards should continue to grow each year. What is more remarkable is that the quality of the work is clearly rising too. And the women prisoners who have curated this year’s exhibition have shed it in a fascinating new light. Their selections feel warmly personal, sometimes dark, but with marvelous flashes of humour, and a particular emphasis on careful detail and discipline. They are giving those of us outside prison an unprecedented insight into custody, creativity and gender.”

Organised by The Koestler Trust, the UK’s best known prison arts charity, this year’s Awards attracted 5,867 entries, with prizes awarded in 52 categories. The exhibition includes film, music and writing alongside the visual arts. Visitors are invited to vote for extra awards sponsored by the Wates family, owners of one of the UK’s largest construction companies, the Wates Group.

All of the work in the exhibition has been made in the last year, and includes painting, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, textiles and other media. The female curators have been instrumental in shaping the design and hang at Southbank Centre, and some of their comments are included in the displays.

The Awards, now in their 48th year, aim to promote creativity across the criminal justice system. Many of the works are for sale at modest prices, with half the proceeds going to the artist. The sales provide invaluable financial support for the Koestler Trust, and 10% goes to Victim Support, the national charity for people affected by crime.
Read Southbank Centre / AG articles on Taxi
•Southbank Centre Presents Award-Winning Art By Women Offenders


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