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Unlock Your Mind to Prisoner Art

No Lockdown in the Imagination is an outdoor installation taking place across the windows of London’s Southbank Centre, and online.

On show will be a selection of audio, visual and written works selected from the 2020 Koestler Awards, the 58th annual Koestler Awards for people across the UK’s criminal justice system.

This installation is a testament to the power of the arts against adversity.

During the pandemic, many prisoners have been under 23-hour lockdown.

Educational activities, family visits, and release on temporary license – to start to rebuild life in the outside world – were all put on hold to keep people safe.

For prisoners, creativity has been their only escape and saviour.

Hope, HM Prison & Young Offender Institution Low Newton

Using limited materials and limitless creativity, people across our criminal justice system have kept themselves going with the power of their imagination. As a result, this installation has a joyful, optimistic feel.

The work is reproduced on window vinyls, with a selection also displayed behind the glass at the Southbank Centre’s Riverside Terrace. It is exactly the sort of escapism people need at this particular moment in history.

There is an unavoidable irony in the fact that the work, which was created inside, (coincidentally the name of the Koestler Arts 2017 exhibition, curated by Antony Gormley) will only be viewable from the outside.

Sally Taylor, Chief Executive, Koestler Arts said about the exhibition: “We have all experienced lockdown this year, but the term originates in prisons, which have undergone their own very draconian form of lockdown, many for 23 hours a day. No Lockdown in the Imagination reflects the art of experts in lockdown, received for our awards this year. We hope it resonates with and inspires its audiences.”

On the prison lockdown, a 2020 Koestler Awards entrant said: “Prison is hard, but (..) with Covid-19, you couldn’t imagine in your wildest dreams what it is like for us. 23 hours locked in our little box since March. If you’re reading this, a little bit of advice. Never take your freedom for granted.”

Clean View, HM Prison Peterborough (Carved from prison soap)

Covid-19 has made 2020 the most challenging Koestler Awards year to date. Despite the backdrop of national, local and prison lockdowns, prisoners, secure patients, people on probation and youth offending teams still managed to submit over 6,500 entries.

The 2020 Koestler Awards have been judged by a socially-distanced judging panel. As in previous years, specialist judges selected winners and gave feedback across each of the 52 categories.

The exhibition is curated separately and includes many of the judges’ choices. This year’s Koestler Awards judging panel includes Sarah Lucas, Jeremy Deller, Alison Lapper, George the Poet, Dorcas Magbadelo, Hot Chip and many other established names across the fields of visual art, poetry and music.

No Lockdown in the Imagination celebrates this achievement and is a chance for their vibrant work to be shared with the general public. Many of the artworks in the installation will also be for sale, via the Koestler Arts website.

No Lockdown in the Imagination is on at the Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road London SE1 8XX from 12th November – 13th December 2020. Admission: Free (un-ticketed)

Main image: Through The Keyhole, HM Prison Kilmarnock


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