Magilligan prisoners’ writing skills recognised in UK-wide competition

Date published: 13 October 2023

Prisoners at Magilligan have picked up a record 28 creative writing awards in the annual Koestler Arts competition.

Koestler Arts is UK prison arts charity, which encourages people in the criminal justice system to change their lives by participating in the arts.

One Gold, two Silver, three Bronze, two Outstanding Debut Awards, five Highly Commended and 15 Commended awards were collected by the Magilligan prisoners. One prisoner also picked up a platinum award in the UK–wide screenplay category.

Two poems from the creative writing group were also selected, to be included in Koestler's biennial poetry anthology, distributed to prison libraries all over the UK.  

Gary Milling, Governor at Magilligan Prison said: “This is the highest number of Koestler creative writing awards we have ever received in any year. I’m also delighted that ‘Time In’, the Magilligan prison magazine produced by prisoners, got a Gold Award as it reflects a collective project. They are all well-deserved winners.

Governor Milling added: “This is all about building self-esteem, encouraging those people in our care to lead more positive lives by motivating them to participate and achieve in the arts.”

John Graham, head of education at the Magilligan campus of the North West Regional College, said: “We are delighted that students in Magilligan have been awarded an unprecedented number of Koestler Awards in Creative Writing.

“The power of education transforms lives, and I firmly believe by encouraging prisoners in Magilligan to participate in creative writing, continuing their educational journey, this can happen.”

Fred Caulfield, Executive Director of Prison Arts Foundation, said “Consistently over many years I find myself astonished at the number of Koestler awards which are won by prisoners. Here again to prove my point in 2023 Koestler Award winners in creative writing total 28 Awards.This number actually stems from two sources: year by year the extraordinary developmental, artistic skills and educational professionalism by the artists that deliver our programmes, the other source is of course the high standard of prisoners' creative work which shows the value of the arts in prison.” 

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Koestler Awards for arts in criminal justice started in 1962. Each year over 3,500 people in custody and in the community share their creative work by taking part.
  2. Magilligan Prison is a medium to low security prison which holds male prisoners with six years or less to serve and who meet the relevant security classification.
  3. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office via Email
  4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.


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