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Heatherwood Court enters the 2024 Koestler Awards

4 Heatherwood Court patients have entered thirteen separate creative arts categories in the prestigious Koestler Awards this year, which is a record for the hospital.

Learn more about Heatherwood Court

Heatherwood Court enters the Koestler Awards

30th May 2024

 

4 Heatherwood Court patients have entered thirteen separate creative arts categories in the prestigious Koestler Awards this year, which is a record for the hospital.

Heatherwood’s Activities & Therapies Coordinator explains what the Koestler Awards are and why the hospital sees them as a valuable tool in the therapeutic process.

 

What are the Koestler awards?

The Koestler awards were created in 1962 for people in the criminal justice system to inspire creativity and spark rehabilitation through the arts. Arthur Koestler (1905 – 1983) established these awards to reward “creative work in the fields of literature, the arts or sciences by those physically confined”.

Previously there was no way of creative work by prisoner’s being judged and rewarded by experts in the field outside of the prison service. The awards were welcomed by the then Home Secretary RA Butler as “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.”.

 

The impact

When the Koestler awards launched, they received 200 hundred entries – as of 2024, they now receive nearly 3000 entries each year. Participating in these awards can have a positive impact on the rehabilitative journeys of individuals within the justice system, including:

  • Building and developing new skills
  • Gaining confidence
  • Participating in positive and productive activities

Evidence also suggests that engaging in the arts and creative activity can improve wellbeing and personal connections, and provides opportunities for education and self-reflection.

All entries in the Koestler awards are presented in a free art exhibition, with the goal of raising awareness and fighting stigma around the criminal justice system. Since 2008, this annual exhibition has been held at the Southbank Centre in London, the largest art centre in the UK. Smaller, regional exhibitions are also hosted across the UK to showcase the entries.

Koestler also offers an art mentoring scheme, which allows recently released prisoners to partner with an art professional to support their growth in the arts. In addition to the mentor scheme, each year 6-8 ex-prisoners are able to gain employment via the exhibit host programme.

As exhibit hosts they are supported to develop and refine vital workplace skills, and can share their lived experiences of the impact of art rehabilitation in criminal justice settings with the general public.

 

The Koestler awards at Heatherwood Court Hospital

Patients at Heatherwood Court have previously entered the Koestler awards and have won in a number of categories, so when the hospital appointed a new Activities and Therapies Coordinator, Samantha Edwards, one of the key goals she set herself was to develop our involvement in the awards further as an additional opportunity to build meaningful therapeutic relationships.

As her starting point, Samantha took time to explain the awards to the patients at the hospital and go through the guidance for each category. She encouraged the patients to suggest their ideas for entries, and them mutually agreed how she could assist them to achieve their visions.

Working with each participant to create their entries allowed Sam to visit each patient regularly to provide support and encouragement; giving her the opportunity to get to know each individual on a deeper level and develop trusting, supportive relationships.

Their conversations about art often created avenues for discussion about other topics – including their rehabilitative journey and their time at Heatherwood Court – as Samantha said:

“It was a pleasure to help the patients and see their enthusiasm creating their entries. There are some very talented individuals residing at Heatherwood Court and it made me proud to see the finished entries, especially when I knew that for some the process had been hard to open up and create.”.

 

What the Koestler awards mean for the patients we support

As a result of Samantha’s efforts four patients at the hospital submitted 13 entries in the 2024 Koestler awards – an incredible result. The entries encompassed a range of different creative mediums, including, poetry, creative writing, watercolour painting, physical and digital art, song lyrics, and photography.

One of the patients who submitted entries this year said:

“I wanted to try something different, be a part of something bigger than just being in hospital. As there were a few of us entering off my ward it helped bond us and got us communicating. As peers we supported each other to complete out entries, encouraging each other. The process was a good distraction and it made me feel proud to see the finished pieces. Entering the Koestler awards has encouraged me to continue with my digital art despite not feeling confident with my artwork.”

Another patient who entered the awards said:

“I really enjoyed taking part. It made me feel good to be doing something different. I felt really supported by Sam: she explained what needed to be done and I knew I could ask her for help if at any point if I got stuck. I was fascinated by my peers creating their entries. It was a big step agreeing to submit for judging. My ideas were different to what I would normally create it was quite cathartic. It came from me and represented my thoughts and feelings.”

 

The next steps

After all of their hard work, this year’s participants and the Heatherwood Court team are eagerly awaiting the results.

Throughout June and July all entries to the Koestler awards will be judged, with the winning entries being announced in August. In September, the Koestler awards will open its annual exhibition of all 2024 entries at the Southbank Centre in London, which will be available for the public to visit until November.

In October, all of the 2024 winners will receive their prizes, and a certificate to recognise their achievement.

 

 

Purpose-built, Heatherwood Court provides mental health treatment in both low secure and locked environments. Located in countryside close to Cardiff, Heatherwood Court offers accommodation across four single-gender units.

At Heatherwood our focus is on rehabilitation and recovery. By providing our patients with relationship and life skills, alongside resilience and coping strategies, we promote the emotional stability which can provide the sound foundation needed to make a successful move back into the community.

Samantha Edwards

Activities and Therapies Coordinator at Heatherwood Court

“It was a pleasure to help the patients and see their enthusiasm creating their entries. There are some very talented individuals residing at Heatherwood Court and it made me proud to see the finished entries, especially when I knew that for some the process had been hard to open up and create.”

“I wanted to try something different, be a part of something bigger than just being in hospital. As there were a few of us entering off my ward it helped bond us and got us communicating. As peers we supported each other to complete out entries, encouraging each other.”

Patient, Heatherwood Court Hospital

“I was fascinated by my peers creating their entries. It was a big step agreeing to submit for judging. My ideas were different to what I would normally create it was quite cathartic. It came from me and represented my thoughts and feelings.”

Patient, Heatherwood Court Hospital

Heatherwood Court

Heatherwood Court Hospital

Located in the countryside close to Cardiff, Heatherwood Court offers accommodation across four single-gender units.

Opened in 2008, Heatherwood Court provides care, treatment and rehabilitation for individuals who meet the following criteria:

  • Adults with severe and enduring mental illness requiring a low secure environment
  • Male and female mentally disordered offenders requiring a low secure environment
  • Women with mental health needs and personality disorders requiring a locked ward

Click to learn more

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