Artworks created by North East NHS patients have won the highest awards possible in a national arts competition which celebrates all forms of art created by prisoners and secure patients.
The annual Koestler Awards aim to challenge negative stereotypes and help people lead more positive lives by motivating them to participate and achieve in the arts.
Receiving one of these awards is a lifetime achievement; artworks which receive an award are shortlisted from over 6,600 entries, and are judged by some of the leading lights in British contemporary art.Eric Rothwell,Artist at the Recovery and Engagement Art Hub for Secure Care services
25 artworks by patients being treated in secure care services at Northgate Hospital in Morpeth received awards, including an award for Outstanding Debut. A portrait titled ‘John Coffey’ (above), and a painting titled ‘The Egypt’ (below), both received Platinum Awards, the highest award available.
Northgate Hospital is run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), a leading provider of mental health and disability services across the North East and North Cumbria.
Eric Rothwell, Artist at the Recovery and Engagement Art Hub for Secure Care services at Northgate, said: “For me, one of the best parts of the awards each year is reading out the judges’ handwritten comments – it’s fantastic that patients get to hear an outside expert opinion about their individual work and receive that encouragement.
“Receiving one of these awards is a lifetime achievement; artworks which receive an award are shortlisted from over 6,600 entries, and are judged by some of the leading lights in British contemporary art. There are only a very few of these, especially the gold and platinum awards, given out across the whole UK each year.”
The artworks include a mix of textiles, drawing, paintings and portraits, sculpture, digital art, and musical compositions.
Many of the entries by patients at Northgate will also be on display as part of the Koestler Trust’s ‘Freedom’ exhibition in the South Bank Centre, London. The exhibition has been curated by renowned Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei.
Eric added: “The fact that our patients’ work is being exhibited at the South Bank Centre highlights the quality of the artwork entered, and really shows how much their efforts are valued.”
One of the people from Northgate who won a top award got the chance to visit the South Bank Centre to see it on display in person. He commented, “I had a good day; it was my first time in London, and I enjoyed seeing my art on display!” Paul Thompson, a Recovery and Engagement facilitator who accompanied him, added: “The exhibition was really, really good, and seeing the artwork in place was fantastic.”
The team will also be holding a local awards ceremony at Northgate Hospital at the end of November to celebrate the achievements of all who entered the Koestler Awards.
Everyone needs an outlet to express themselves and that outlet can help people when they are at their most vulnerable. It can also help them begin to recover a sense of being themselves, not a patient or prisoner but a person in their own right.Eric Rothwell,Artist at the Recovery and Engagement Art Hub for Secure Care services
Explaining the importance of the Art Hub’s work with secure care services at Northgate Hospital, Eric said: “We encourage all our patients to become involved in the art groups. Everyone needs an outlet to express themselves and that outlet can help people when they are at their most vulnerable. It can also help them begin to recover a sense of being themselves, not a patient or prisoner but a person in their own right.
“People in our secure care services often use the focus of the annual Koestler Arts Awards to help navigate their way through long periods in institutions by using their art to connect more, which helps towards their overall recovery and treatment goals.”
The Koestler Trust is the UK’s leading prison arts charity, and the Koestler Awards for Arts in Criminal Justice are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, having started in 1962. Each year, over 3,500 people in custody and in the community share their creative work by taking part.