Culture Works: An evening with Koestler Arts
Uncovering hidden talent
For the final Culture Works event of 2022, we hosted an evening in Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, where Culture Works members and guests enjoyed exclusive access to Freedom, the latest exhibition from Koestler Arts. Alongside a private address from Koestler Arts chief executive, Sally Taylor, visitors had the chance to explore the latest exhibition from the UK’s largest prison arts charity.
The power of art in changing perceptions, and uncovering talent
Koestler Arts is a charity that gives those within the prison system a voice to express themselves and encourage change through art. 2022 marks 60 years of the Koestler Awards, the annual scheme that invites individuals in custody to share pieces of art, writing and music for the chance to feature in a unique exhibition hosted at the Southbank Centre.
This year, the charity received a record 6,000 entries from individuals within the UK’s criminal justice system. Despite normally displaying 180 works of art at the Southbank Centre annually, the vision for the latest exhibition was inspired by exhibition curator, Ai Weiwei’s visit to the Koestler Arts building. Taken aback by the quantity of artworks and the range of categories on display, Weiwei’s concept aimed to be as inclusive as possible. The result is nearly 1,900 unique pieces of multi-media across a corridor of 15 ‘cells’, similar in size to a typical cell in a UK prison.
Guests at the Culture Works event heard from Sally Taylor, chief executive of Koestler Arts, who emphasised the power of art in challenging perceptions and providing opportunity. She shared how Koestler Arts support those searching for a better life outside of prison through Koestler’s mentoring programme, where participants have gone on to publish books, complete degrees at Central St Martins and more, testament to the work of the charity in uncovering and nurturing hidden talent.
Culture Works: Enabling access to the arts
This was the fourth event in the Culture Works programme that offers free access to some of the most exciting events in the Southbank Centre’s arts and cultural programme. We’ve teamed up with the Southbank Centre to create a community that encourages cross-sector learning and invaluable networking opportunities for small and emerging businesses in Lambeth and wider London. Over the coming years, Culture Works hopes to inspire a new generation of creatively-minded business leaders through the lens of the arts.
It was fantastic to see the Culture Works community come together to celebrate the latest Koestler Exhibition, while enjoying drinks and canapés by Social Pantry, which offers a range of employment opportunities for former members of the criminal justice system. Anu Ramani, founder of Isoline Communications, who attended, said:
“We were so lucky to have an opportunity to visit the Koestler Arts Exhibition, through Culture Works, which showcased the most incredible art, all created by those inside the criminal justice system. So much talent, pain, joy, imagination – mind-blowing when you think about the circumstances they must have been created in.”
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