Koestler Wrap Up – Final Words

Robert: I like looking at all the different paintings in the spirit level and working with the volunteer coordinators.

Tara: Ashleigh: The first time i discovered Koestler was at college. My first impression was shock and amazement. I was in shock about how beautiful these pieces were. It is a fantastic way to keep yourself grounded so you don’t lose yourself in prison. I never knew in future years i would be here volunteering for this exhibition. My favourite pieces are the lion king with the colourful pieces on it, i was stunned by all the colours that bought the lions face to life and my second favorite was the piece was the lion eater with the dragon because when you get up close i’m amazed by all the equipment and tools available in prison that can make amazing artwork. We’re all just people no matter what, we all need to express yourself properly

Yunzi: I really enjoyed the tours, they did an amazing job. And every tour is special and unique. My favourite piece is property of her majesty the queen/comfort blanket. It really expressed how difficult prisoner life is.

Julie: I really loved this exhibition, i found it to be an eye opener to the creativeness of people who have been incarcerated, i found it really heartwarming be able to share the exhibition to other people and share the inspiration of how creative someone can be on the inside. My favourite pieces are the comfort blanket and the WTF. I enjoy talking to people about the grandfather clock because of how fantastic the piece is. I also love the piece with the felt sweets.

Jane: I have enjoyed really learning about Koestler i hadn’t heard about the trust at all before, and it has been eye opening for me to learn about it. It has been inspiring for me to come in each week the two tours i went on were really interesting, and delivered well and it was fantastic each time even if it was their first tour. I really love the red fish piece I was really sad it wasn’t for sale, i wanted to buy it, i found its relation to freedom beautiful.

Toyin: I don’t know which i like best, I like all of it. I liked coming each week.

Giulia: It was amazing. I had to write an essay about a successful art management piece, and Koestler became what I wanted to write about. I struggled to find a bad thing about the exhibition. My favourite piece was self portrait, i think it is very emblematic, because it represents how important the feedback is from the visitors.

Lawrence: I love the clock as it signifies the time they are in prison and how much time and it makes me realise we do not appreciate how much time we have and it makes me realise how much time you have inside to think and it makes you appreciate life a lot more.

Tara: This exhibition was a new experience for me, I have never been to anything like this before and it was interesting to see people makes things out of nothing with such limited materials. I also found them to be very intelligent people, and I don’t have a favourite, I like all of them!

Bridget (Volunteer coordinator): It has been a real pleasure to work with the volunteers and do my job to the best of my ability and you have all  been a pleasure to be around. It means so much to us that you want to donate our time to such a worthwhile cause.

Lucy (Volunteer coordinator): I have loved getting to know the Koestler trust exceptionally well during this opportunity. I have loved the intimate nature of getting to know the team better and all the conversations we have had about why this is such an important exhibition. I look forward to use doing it all again next year.

Maurizio Pollini’s six decades of exceptional pianism at Southbank Centre

pollini-01‘That boy can play better than any of us’ Arthur Rubinstein

Maurizio Pollini is one of the great piano legends, with a career spanning nearly 60 years. With his unaffected manner and an elegant clarity to his playing, Pollini has brought his individual voice to all musical styles from the 1700s to the present day. Ahead of his two recitals in spring, we’ve looked into our Southbank Centre archive to explore six decades of Pollini’s performances.

Pollini is now considered by many to be one of the world’s most outstanding pianists. Yet he was only 18 when he obtained international recognition, by winning first prize at the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1960.

It was three years later that the maestro made his debut in London in a concert in 1963 at Royal Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Pierre Monteux, the repertoire chosen for Pollini’s first solo performance was:

TCHAIKOVSKY Fantasy Overture, Romeo and Juliet

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37

SCHUBERT Symphony No.9 in C (Great)

In the early 70s, Pollini began to establish an international career of the greatest importance. In 1971, he signed with Deutsche Grammophon and released his first recordings on the German label; these included Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka and Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata.

With regular appearances in music centres around the world, Pollini began the career of piano superstar.


Fact: Pollini’s strong political convictions formed an important part of his musical life, improving his technique by playing in factories for causes such as peace in Vietnam with Italian conductor Claudio Abbado and Italian composer Luigi Nono. He also performed concerts in the neighbourhoods around Reggio Emilia and recitals for students at La Scala, animated by their ideals of justice and peace.

The collaboration between Abbado and Pollini continued after those years, with several concerts held at Royal Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Pollini began the 80s at Southbank Centre, with a televised opening season concert playing Mozart’s D Minor Concerto with Sir Georg Solti and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He continued to give several recitals in Royal Festival Hall throughout the decade as well as a  performance in 1983 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Masse by Giacomo Manzoni written as a homage to Varese, the first explorer of Manzoni’s favourite musical sounds was part of that evening’s repertoire.

Fact: New York, 1987: Under the direction of Claudio Abbado, the maestro played the complete piano concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven with the Vienna Philharmonic. On this occasion he received the orchestra’s Honorary Ring.

In 1996, Pollini brought back his superb pianism to Royal Festival Hall with the Beethoven Sonata Cycle

The audience was taken on an intense journey through eight recitals, that followed the chronological order in which Beethoven wrote his works, with the exception of Opus 49.

Pollini demonstrated how great playing can be achieved through quiet, undemonstrative means.’ Annette Morreau, 16 December 1996 – The Independent

Pollini’s career in London in the new millennium was full of highlights. These included a performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in honour of their 75th birthday in 2007; and the Pollini Project in 2011, where he embarked on a five-recital pilgrimage, with the concerts spanning 250 years of piano repertoire from Bach to Boulez.

‘I like their way of listening and their deep interest in music, and so I thought it was possible to do something larger and different. I have played these works many times and they are all extraordinarily important works for the piano. Put together, they form something of a line, something of a story of piano music. But it is not a rigorous or strict line. They are closely connected to me and my overall musical interests, so it is also my personal line and, in a way, my personal story.’ Pollini on London audience

Fact: The opening of the Pollini Project in London was signposted by the arrival of a brand new favourite piano: a Steinway concert grand refined by the Italian piano technician Angelo Fabbrini.

‘I have played a recital in London more or less every year throughout my career and have a very strong relationship with the London public (…)’ Maurizio Pollini

With his two upcoming recitals, Maurizio Pollini’s cumulative appearances at Southbank Centre add up to 133 performances.

His recitals have made a major contribution to the International Piano Series as one of the most prestigious piano recital series in London, where fans  can see him playing alongside the emerging talents aspiring to Pollini’s greatness.

Mr. Pollini is represented by HarrisonParrot and records exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon.

Koestler exhibition volunteer review: Swans


Swans, Stockton Hall Hospital, Keith Bromley Platinum Award for Photography, digital print on paper.

We Are All Human is an exhibition showcasing artwork produced in the UK’s prisons, secure hospitals and immigration removal centres, and by ex-offenders in the community.

I was drawn to this piece because of its witty and simple subject matter. The photograph depicts two cloves of garlic facing each other, and due to the shape of their stalk and dry skin, they appear to take the form of two swans in conversation. This speaks volumes of the resourcefulness of the offenders, secure patients and detainees involved in the Koestler exhibition. Many of them had very limited access to art materials, causing some pieces to be made of bread, matchsticks, toilet paper and soap. But Swans also reflects the emotional conditions that many faced during their incarceration; hoping for meaningful interaction with another. This photograph is joyful, heart-warming and simply made me smile. (Ruth)


Heinali talks to us about his latest score for Jean Abreu: A Thread

Music composer Oleg Shpudeiko (Heinali) from Ukraine, discusses his latest work for Jean Abreu: A Thread.

Oleg writes and performs beautiful, emotive music under Heinali moniker — Electroacoustics, live piano improvisation, music for films, games, performances and exhibitions.


What attracted you to get involved with A Thread?

While some of my existing compositions have been featured in a few choreographic performances, I’ve never composed original music for a choreography before. But I always was interested — some works that were composed in the past were written with choreographic performances in mind. Plus, it was a great chance to work with wonderful musicians (Andrew Maginley and Benjamin Kaminski) which I don’t get very often as I specialize in electroacoustic music, don’t have a formal music education and usually spend most of my time working alone in my studio. Using studio as an instrument, as Brian Eno would have probably said. So when Jean offered a collaboration I couldn’t resist. Actually, while working on Bound, I was working in parallel on another exciting project which is quite related to choreography — Bound, a video game by Plastic / Sony Santa Monica. Princess, the game’s protagonist, moves and interacts with the world with dance. Her movements were captured from a professional dancer and feature if I’m not mistaken both contemporary dance and ballet. I think some of the ideas I had for Bound were influenced by the work I did on A Thread and vice versa.

What should the audience expect from the show?

In terms of music, it features both rather free interpretations of old music by Monteverdi, Dowland, anonymous author performed by Andrew (theorbo) and Benjamin (viola) and electroacoustic compositions recorded by me. Both original pieces of music were written specifically for A Thread and one old composition which Jean decided to have in the work. Actually, music’s structure was heavily influenced by Jean’s method of work, which is much closer to improvisation and the process itself feels like solving a difficult puzzle. Instead of composing for a fixed, rigid structure of a complete performance, I had to make lots of edits and rearrangements as we went through numerous changes both in the structure and fragments. It was quite challenging because, when you deal with a composed electroacoustic it’s very difficult to make changes to it, as it exists in the form of audio recordings, not scores (there are exceptions, of course).

What influences did you draw upon when preparing for A Thread?

It might sound strange, but Rothko’s works. In my solo work, I rely heavily on a looping and layering technique, which is similar to Rothko’s Color Field painting. I employed this technique to a certain extent in music for A Thread. Another influence is Renaissance and late Medieval pieces that were considered for the project. Fro example, some of the electroacoustic compositions started out as heavily processed versions of music by Dowland and Monteverdi.

Please can you describe how your music interacts with the dancers and set design?

A Thread’s set design feels both ‘minimal and’ ‘unsafe’ — the dancers interact with heavy and loud weights, there’s a lot of tension in the choreography. Instead of writing a clashing percussive score, I decided to incorporate the sounds produced by the dancers and accentuate the mood and dynamics for the particular fragment of the piece. As I mentioned before, the music wasn’t written to fit a complete, finished performance. Both choreography and music were in a flux until the very end. I believe, a lot of decisions Jean has made were influenced by music and a lot of decisions I made were influenced by Jean’s changes in choreography and structure while we worked together in London. I think it became so intertwined and interdependent that’s it’s difficult to separate certain aspects of it and tell how a specific part interacts.

Jean Abreu: A Thread takes place Fri 4 Nov 2016, RFH – book tickets here

Koestler exhibition volunteer review: Unlocked

We Are All Human is an exhibition showcasing artwork produced in the UK’s prisons, secure hospitals and immigration removal centres, and by ex-offenders in the community.

The display includes painting, music, writing and ceramics as well as traditional prison crafts such as matchstick modelling. The 2016 annual UK Koestler exhibition has been curated by writer and dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah who has selected from over 6,000 artworks submitted to the 2016 Koestler Awards.



There was a matchstick model called unlocked made by Christopher. A bet was made by a prison officer and Christopher, The prison officer said to Christopher that he cannot build a functional lock with working mechanism using just matchsticks. Christopher prove the officer wrong by building a functional lock made with matchsticks, He used a spring from a pen and build a working lock, The lock he built won a Bronze Award.




I like The Lion King because its funny, because I need to know about the Lion king, because I enjoyed it very much.




I am really fascinated by the Fire-Eater, because the dark browns, whites and reds stood out strongly on the wooden base.


Koestler exhibition volunteer review: Pillow of Dreams

We Are All Human is an exhibition showcasing artwork produced in the UK’s prisons, secure hospitals and immigration removal centres, and by ex-offenders in the community.

The display includes painting, music, writing and ceramics as well as traditional prison crafts such as matchstick modelling. The 2016 annual UK Koestler exhibition has been curated by writer and dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah who has selected from over 6,000 artworks submitted to the 2016 Koestler Awards.


The majority of the artworks in this showcase are very good and remarkable. I am really impressed by the creativity and the wide range of ideas that prisoners express through art.

If I could take one of all these pieces of art with me at home that would be the “Pillow of dreams”. Initially, I would like to mention that it is a very good combination of arts including poetry, sculpture and painting. Furthermore, the imagination of the artist is being expressed by representing a cell in prison which is full of colours, includes animals and flowers and it is fully decorated like a common room. So, it is exactly the opposite of what most prison cells look like (black & white including only very few furniture. In addition, this piece of art does not simply represent a prison’s room decorated with common house furniture. It is a room which also includes nature (e.g. flowers on the floor, bird on the bedroom etc.).

To conclude, I believe that this composition of various arts combined with this mixture of a cell, common house furniture and nature can make anybody who takes a look at it the “Pillow of dreams” feel free, healthy, happy and full of imagination.

Athanasios Chalmoukis

Koestler exhibition volunteer review: W.T.F.



In the painting W.T.F., a guy is sitting in the corner of the room crying and grabbing his head, with a letter crumpled up and an envelope ripped in a rush on the floor. A bad news, or maybe even a tragedy has happened to his family. But he is inside, has no ability to control and help the things happened and people he loved on the outside world, but to accept them frustratingly. During the tour, the tour guide told us a story: once he was conducting a tour, a visitor recognized the space in this painting and said he was in the same prison before. The details of the prison space are depicted very precisely, which evoked this visitor’s memory. Maybe he experienced the same feeling as the artist, hopeless, desperate, lonely… (Yunzi, Giulia, Robert)


We Are All Human is an exhibition showcasing artwork produced in the UK’s prisons, secure hospitals and immigration removal centres, and by ex-offenders in the community.

The display includes painting, music, writing and ceramics as well as traditional prison crafts such as matchstick modelling. The 2016 annual UK Koestler exhibition has been curated by writer and dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah who has selected from over 6,000 artworks submitted to the 2016 Koestler Awards.