The News Line Saturday September 28 2013 PAGE 7

The Strength & Vulnerability Bunker

The Strength & Vulnerability Bunker

Spirit Level, The Clore Ballroom
Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London SE1

Until 1st December 2013 Daily 10am-11pm Admission free


THE Strength & Vulnerability Bunker is the UK's annual national showcase of art by prisoners, offenders on community sentences, secure psychiatric patients and immigration detainees.

It is the sixth exhibition in an ongoing partnership between the Koestler Trust and Southbank Centre.

This year's exhibition invites you to enter an atmospheric bunker, filled with images, objects, sounds and films that reveal personal reflections, regrets and hopes.

Mercury Prize-winning rapper Speech Debelle has selected artwork, which she feels should be preserved as testament to the importance of human creation, from the thousands of entries to the 2013 Koestler Awards.

For the first time, ex-offenders are employed as exhibition hosts, working alongside Southbank Centre staff to invigilate the exhibition and welcome visitors throughout the ten-week run.

As well as impacting on the individual participants' skills and experience, this ground-breaking employment project gives an unprecedented public profile to the value of education and employment opportunities for people in the criminal justice system.

Visitors will be able to hear first-hand how the arts reflect, and enrich, thousands of people's lives each year.

The Koestler Trust is a unique charity that promotes art by offenders.

The themes of 'strength' and 'vulnerability' run through much of curator Speech's music.

Here she uses them to help navigate herself, and the viewer, through the diverse and hugely affecting artwork she has selected from over 7,000 submissions to the 2013 Koestler Awards, by prisoners, secure patients and immigration detainees from across the country.

Speech Debelle said: 'I love the idea that there are secret bunkers around the world that store art which reflects human identity.

'The duality again of the bunker and environments in which this art actually comes from is another thing that interests me.

The bunker has three zones and, hopefully, as you move through each zone you experience the art in the three stages: strength, vulnerability and the stage that binds or connects them.'

Koestler's Chief Executive Tim Robertson said: 'We've never had a musician curating our exhibition before. Speech Debelle comes to offender arts with a unique sensitivity from her own creative journey.

'She is developing whole new ways for the public to experience the talent and humanity that can emerge from prisons and other secure establishments.

'And the public's experience will be further enhanced by the presence of ex-prisoners as exhibition hosts, welcoming every visitor and leading tours to bring the art truly alive.'
Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said: 'I believe passionately in the role the arts play in changing lives, so I'm delighted Southbank Centre is hosting the Koestler Trust's exhibition for the 6th consecutive year.

'I am immensely proud of our continuing partnership with the Koestler Trust and wholeheartedly support their work and philosophy.'