Koestler Arts: Freedom
Koestler Arts marks the 60th anniversary of the Koestler Awards with an ambitious exhibition of art by people in the UK’s criminal justice system, curated by Ai Weiwei.
The Koestler Awards is an annual programme encouraging people from the UK’s criminal justice system to change their lives through the arts.
The vision for this year’s exhibition is inspired by Ai Weiwei’s visit to the Koestler Arts building, which currently holds over 6,500 artworks entered into this year’s awards.
Taken aback by the quantity of artworks and the range of categories on display, the artist’s concept evolved to be as inclusive as possible and to let the artwork show how humanity responds when put in extreme circumstances.
This year, the exhibition space is being transformed physically to realise this vision, helping to preserve the environment within which the artworks are made.
The aim is to not ‘translate’ the work but to retain the wholeness of it. Ai Weiwei explains this idea with an analogy: he wants to present the forest, not just a branch that comes from it.
During his curation period, the artist also visited HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs, which is situated next to the Koestler Arts Centre.
Having visited many prisons around the world, as well as experiencing his own restriction of freedom during a period of secret detention and constant surveillance in China, this additional visit to HMP Wormwood Scrubs helped to strengthen and confirm the vision for the exhibition.
Dates & times
27 Oct – 18 Dec, 10am
Closed: Tuesday 15 & Wednesday 16 November
- Standard entryFree
Everyone needs the arts. We need you.
Royal Festival Hall
The Royal Festival Hall is open to all for access to the Level 2 foyers and toilets, Level 1 and Changing Places toilets, the National Poetry Library, Skylon, Riverside Terrace Cafe, Southbank Centre Shop and Members' Lounge at the following times:
*The Royal Festival Hall is open Mon & Tue, 10am – 6pm**; Wed – Sun, 10am – 11pm.
**On event days, the Royal Festival Hall building remains open until the end of the event.
Our address is: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. The nearest tube and train stations within 5 – 7 minutes walk are Waterloo (Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines) and Embankment (District & Circle lines). There are also lots of bus routes with stops 2– 5 minutes from our venues. For more information on getting here by road, rail or river, see below.
Pre-booking online is recommended. Check our website on the day for returns. There’s no need to print your e-ticket – just show your phone to our Visitor Assistants on entry.
Some free events don't require a ticket. Found an event labelled FREE on our website with no way to book? Simply turn up on the day.
If you don't receive your e-ticket
Your e-ticket will be sent to you seven days before the event date from [email protected]. If you don't receive your e-ticket, and it's not in your junk or spam folder, please get in touch.
Find out all you need to know about tickets, including concessions, group bookings, returns, credit vouchers and more, via the link below.
Toilets, including accessible toilets, are open on Level 2 of the Royal Festival Hall.
There's a cloakroom in the Blue Side Foyer, Level 4, Royal Festival Hall. It’s £1 per item, card only. The cloakroom opens about an hour before ticketed events, and closes around 15 minutes after the performance ends. It can be accessed via Lifts 4 & 5, Blue Side, Royal Festival Hall.
Any sized item can be left in our cloakroom, including fold-away bicycles. We don’t accept non-folding bicycles. Items must be collected on the same day they are stored. From time to time, the cloakroom may not be available. You won’t be able to bring any bags over 40 x 25 x 25cm into the auditorium of the Royal Festival Hall or the Queen Elizabeth Hall, or into the Hayward Gallery, so please leave large bags at home.
Items are left in our cloakrooms at the owner’s risk, and we cannot accept any responsibility for loss or damage, from any cause, to these items.
Please note that we're unable to accept cash payments across our site.
Booking wheelchair positions
When booking a wheelchair position in the Royal Festival Hall for large motorised wheelchairs (more than 65cm wide), please book in the rear stalls or side stalls. Boxes aren't able to accommodate larger wheelchairs due to limited space. If you have any queries, please contact [email protected] or call 020 3879 9555.
Entering the hall
For level access to the Royal Festival Hall from the Queen Elizabeth Hall Slip Road off Belvedere Road, please use the Southbank Centre Square Doors. The JCB Glass Lift is situated at this entrance and will take you to all floors. All floors are accessible from the main foyer on Level 2. If you need further assistance, our Visitor Assistants are here to help you.
You can also use the external lift near the Artists' Entrance on Southbank Centre Square to reach Mandela Walk, Level 2.
We welcome wheelchair users and guide companion dogs.
Blue Badge holders and those with access requirements can be dropped off on the Queen Elizabeth Hall Slip Road off Belvedere Road (the road between the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery).
There are four Blue Badge parking spaces available for visitors located on the Queen Elizabeth Hall Slip Road. Spaces are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, and are free to use. You must display your Blue Badge as you enter the site. Vehicles that do not display a Blue Badge are refused entry.
Blue Badge parking at National Theatre
Alternative parking for Blue Badge holders visiting the Southbank Centre can be found at the National Theatre car park (330 metres). If you are visiting the Hayward Gallery, just take your badge and car park ticket to the Ticket Desk in the gallery foyer for validation before you leave.
Please note: when the National Theatre building is closed (on Sundays, and on days without performances) there is no step-free access from the car park. Please contact the National Theatre directly to check before travelling. Call 020 7452 3961 or email [email protected]
Alternative parking is available nearby at the APCOA Cornwall Road Car Park (490 metres), subject to charges.
Blue Badge parking at APCOA Cornwall Road
Alternative parking for Blue Badge holders visiting the Southbank Centre can also be found at the South Bank Car Park – APCOA Cornwall Road Car Park. Just take your badge and car park ticket to the parking attendant office at the entrance to the car park for validation before you leave.
A drop-off point at the Royal Festival Hall (30 metres) has been created for visitors who are unable to walk from alternative car parks.
Our Access Scheme
If you have any access requirements, please sign up to our Access Scheme for discounts, wheelchair spaces, dedicated seats and free companion tickets. You can also join our mailing list to get news about accessible events and exhibitions.