Issue 29

Koestler Awards 2012

Koestler is a charitable scheme which has been running since 1962 encouraging artistic achievement by offenders. 'Art by offenders' is the fourth annual exhibition in an ongoing partnership between South Bank centre and the Koestler trust. The exhibition presents new work by people who are in the criminal justice and secure setting across the UK such as, prisoners, young offenders, secure psychiatric patients and immigration detainees, as well as those on community sentences, probation and remand.

As well as showcasing creativity and talent, it conveys life stories, experiences and opinions. The art shows how the world looks to a group of people often excluded from mainstream society.

Entrants submit artworks to the awards in 59 different categories. These include painting, mixed media, poetry, film and drama. The 2011 awards attracted 7,656 entries which are judged by professionals in each artistic field.

In November, three patients, two Occupational Therapy technicians and an Occupational Therapy student from Caswell Clinic had the opportunity to attend the South Bank centre in London to view the 'Art by offenders'. We were all up early and on the road by 9am, it took around 3 and a half hours to get to London. It was all very exciting driving through London seeing all the swanky hotels and big stores like Harrods. We arrived at the South Bank centre and took our time looking at all the different pieces of art and listening to the short videos. After viewing the art we decided to take a walk along the River Thames taking in views of Big Ben and the houses of parliament. It was quite busy and there were lot's of tourists around watching the street performers.

We left London late afternoon feeling tired after a busy day. We all discussed what we enjoyed the most about the day and what pieces of art we liked best.

Although many of the exhibits were of a good standard,evincing much imagination and skill, the short videos, for me, were most impressive. An animation about a family visiting an imprisoned father was quite affecting. Although I can't propose any new improvements to what was a fine exhibition, it would have been pleasing to have spent a little longer at the South Bank Centre in order to read the literary submissions and listen to the audio works.

Learning from 'Art by Offenders', I believe Caswell Clinic could be encouraged to create video art, collages, fabric work and original pottery. An exhibited shark's head made from matchsticks is an example of quality artwork that can be fashioned from simple resources. An enjoyable day was had in London and 'Art by Offenders' was definitely inspiring and insightful.