Supreme Court’s art exhibition showcases sculptures and paintings by young offenders

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Display features metal warriors and clocks made from matches

Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, and Sally Taylor, chief executive of the Koestler Trust, at the opening of the STORY TIME exhibition

Nestled away in the Westminster building that’s seen some of the country’s trickiest and most important legal questions answered now lives an art exhibition featuring the work of offenders under the age of 18.

The small display, the brainchild of prison arts charity the Koestler Trust and Victim Support, is called ‘STORY TIME’, and focuses on how stories can be told through art and design. The whole project fits neatly into a glass display box positioned just before the entrance to the Supreme Court’s café — except for one piece, a tower clock made out of matchsticks by prisoners in HMP Grendon, which is located inside the café itself.

Though it doesn’t boast the scale of other more major art exhibitions, the Koestler Trust/Victim Support display is sincere and intriguing.

This is because the creators of the artworks are young, anonymous offenders, whose stories and reasons behind the paintings, sculptures and photographs the user can only but speculate. A name, age or short bio of the artist would have been appreciated, but the ‘why did a prisoner make this?’ and ‘was this piece based on the artist’s life experience?’ guessing game is the exhibition’s main charm.

Though information about the artists themselves is thin, attached to some of the pieces are short quotes from people affected by crime who were given the opportunity to react and respond to the pieces. Comments include: “this is a wonderful imaginative piece” and “[this] gave me a sense of eeriness and peace”. Visitors are also encouraged to leave comment cards, which can then be forwarded anonymously onto the prisoner artists.

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As for highlights, a dustbin-like warrior is probably the most eye-catching piece, though the metal butterfly made by a young person in Vinney Green Secure Unit (a secure children’s home) sitting next to it is charming too.

For those expecting more explicitly prison-themed pieces, an acrylic painting called ‘Man in a Pad’, hailing from an artist in HM Young Offender Institution Wetherby, depicts a young boy donning Nike trainers sitting on what looks like a prison bed. ‘Outside In’ shows two sportsmen encaged in what looks like a security fence, made of plastic.

The Koestler Trust states it receives over 7,000 entries each year for their annual art award scheme, these spanning 51 mediums including art, writing and music. Art lovers can check out more pieces in the Southbank Centre, this larger exhibition curated by the man behind the Angel of the North, Antony Gormley.

This isn’t the Supreme Court’s first toe dip into the exhibition world. Alongside the highest appeal court’s permanent, interactive education installation — which is free to attend and provides history and information about the Westminster court — last year Legal Cheek reviewed a similar art exhibition again created by the Koestler Trust and Victim Support.

The 2016 display was called ‘PAPERWORK’ and showcased about 30 pieces of art made by offenders in prison serving community sentences or in secure psychiatric care. Highlights included a pineapple made out of paper, a print of Cara Delevinge and a flower necklace.

‘STORY TIME’ runs until 7 December and is free to attend.

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Frustrated Writer

Katie was waiting in the lobby of the Supreme Court for Lady Hale. The new exhibition of prison drawings was a good example of outreach for the court. She was excited: the judge was an inspiring figure for her, a trailblazing advocate of equality and progress. She was her Beyoncé.

“Step behind the lines please miss.” The security guard shocked her out of her reverie. He was a bluff, strong man and he had shoved her behind the barrier with some force.

“But I’m a journalist! I’ve got a journalist’s pass for the Supreme Court!” Katie was alarmed. Alex would never forgive her if they were unable to formulate the kind of relationship they had had with Lord Neuberger. The payments from the syndication of Katie’s interview with Neuberger had paid for the rent that month.

“What’s the name of the publication please miss?” The man screwed up his face at her pass.

“Legal Cheek. We’re a witty news website for the legal profession.”

“Legal Week? Alright.” He lumbered off. Clearly hard of hearing, the security guard had misheard the name. Katie didn’t like to correct him. A few minutes later, a sterner middle aged lady with spectacles and big bangle earrings approached her.

“I understand that you’re a journalist, but I haven’t heard of your employer. Are you from a reputable news source?”

“Yes, that’s right. We are Legal Cheek, it’s a witty news website for the legal profession. We were mentioned in the remarks for Lord Neuberger’s valedictory here at the Supreme Court a few months ago.” She smiled at the stern lady, hoping that the mention of Lord Neuberger would swing it.

The lady shook her head, earrings clanging with her glasses as she did. “I’m sorry. This isn’t a proper news organisation. You will have to wait with the public outside. Please don’t attempt to enter the building again as a journalist.”

Katie was mortified. What would Alex say?



God you’re an arsehole.


Frustrated Writer

Not me. I preferred the last bootleg effort.



We are at the top of a middle class pyramid of parasites who feed off the perennial criminal underclass that a society like this creates. You might have thought that after years and years of feeding from it, we would be sickened by it and so we would be at the forefront of reform. You may specifically think that we women would be like Annie Besant and the men like Charles Dickens or even Mohandas Gandhi. But no. We indulge in costumes and an entourage and we wish to be addressed as my Lord or your Ladyship.
As a concession , and to give our entourage something to write and talk about, we will do this art project. But look how we deprive the prisoners of the chance for their written voice to be heard. Deliberately omitted and our younger entourage will observe that guessing what life story the prisoners had, or what observations they may wish to make in words about their incarceration, if they could, is part of the fun.

If you never quite understood the age old challenge of “the path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyrannies of evil men.” I suggest that this could be the detail. The lobbying influence of the twenty first century middle class is such that we can now add “and women.”

Why dont people stop the rot and halt this race to the bottom 😂 ?


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