Delivering circles of support and accountability to protect communities from sexual harm and sexual reoffending


Arts project highlights work from prisoners: Unlock the talent inside.

The Koestler Arts Charity is a fascinating project focussed on encouraging people in the criminal justice system to change their lives by participating in the arts.

At Circles South West our circles work hard to support and hold to account core members, and one of the ways we do support is to help develop interests and talents of individuals. As well as being thought provoking, this work can help circles, volunteers and even core members take inspiration in ways to encourage that.

The Kroestler Awards are named after Arthur Kroestler, a UK campaigner for the abolition of capital punishment in the 1950s. Through a series of newspaper articles and a book Reflections on Hanging he saw his goal realised in 1965 when hanging was abolished. Following this he turned his attention to ‘an imaginative and exciting way to stimulate as far as possible, and in as many cases as possible, the mind and spirit of the prisoner.’

Koestler decided to set up an annual scheme to award ‘creative work in the fields of literature, the arts or sciences by those physically confined’. There was almost no precedent for work by prisoners being judged and rewarded by prominent experts from outside the prison system. The first awards took place in 1962 and the winners were exhibited. Those exhibits continue to this day, as do the awards.

The projects aims to help people serving custodial sentences, secure patients and detainees lead more positive lives by motivating them to participate and achieve in the arts and also increase public awareness and understanding of arts by people in the criminal justice system.

It includes submission from people serving custodial sentences from all around the country, and a number from the south west.

Currently they are featuring An Art Trail by Women in Prison which you can view here and sell books and merchandise as well as artwork. You can buy works here and browse the previous winners’ work here.

The artwork featured in the picture is on sale on the site and is entitled ‘Change What’s Inside My Head’ from HM Prison Bronzefield from 2017.

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