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Five storytellers respond to artworks from Tate's collection

Read how five children's authors respond to artworks in the collection

Can artwork inspire us to tell stories, and what do these stories reveal? We asked authors from our Story Space book collection to create personal, imaginative responses to an artwork of their choice from the collection.

After their text, the authors have included a question or prompt that will get you thinking and looking at artworks differently. What kind of response would you create?

These can be viewed on captions next to artworks in Tate Britain.

1. Dean Atta

Self portrait with Badges

The first badge I wear
Depicts a raised fist
With the words Black Lives Matter.
The second badge I wear
Is a pink triangle, a reclaimed symbol
For many LGBT+ people.
The third badge I wear
Is a blue, pink and white striped flag
In solidarity with all my trans friends.
I also wear a smiley face,
The iconic symbol
Designed by Harvey Ross Ball.
This fourth and final badge I wear
Quite simply,
Because it makes me happy.

Dean Atta is a poet, artist and author of books including The Black Flamingo


How do you express yourself through the things you wear?

2. Yomi Sode, poet and playwright


Lady Macbeth is no different to the olders on the block. Where there’s love, there’s gain, and where there’s loss of life, there’s reassurance of the reason why. She disposes of Macbeth’s murderous tool. Holding his sin, and now – his heart.

There’s little need for witches on the block, as voices shape themselves in human form. Suggesting to Do this one thing and their lives will change.
Each older, meeting their goals as bosses, then becoming paranoid like Macbeth, and his wife. Their success, a cesspool of guilt – drowning.

Yomi Sode is a poet, playright and author of the soon to be published Manorism

Henry Fuseli
Lady Macbeth Seizing the Daggers (?exhibited 1812)


Choose a painting. What story is it telling? Look close, be patient, hear what it has to say.

3. Jasmine Richards, author

Beloved is the child

We squeeze into the frame. I am suffocated by the smell of violet-scented hair and the press of bodies. I see you past the red tentacles and the emerald sea. Just the side of your sweet cheek. It reminds me of the rounded apples of my son’s smile. I wish I could take you from this place. I wish that the circle of glue-pasted jewels on your chest was a magic amulet. Like you said it was. I look for a way out. I think your gaze is on the same horizon.

Jasmine Richards is an author, screenwriter and founder of Storymix


Imagine you can read the thoughts of someone in this painting. Who are they? What are they thinking about?

4. Joseph Coelho, poet and children's laureate 2022-24

Part of the London scene

The story plays out before me
I’m entranced by the puppets’ dance:
The poor fruit-seller down below me,
the thieves’ fingers pinching chance.
The dead that ride behind me,
the baby in the yellow suit,
all laid out before me –
as a dancer mocks with soot.
ride closest to heaven
seeing all whilst I’m unseen,
part of the London crowd.
I’ve always been part of the London scene.
Another working man
like the soldier, sailor and seller
do you see me in the background?
will I pass the lips of the storyteller?

Joseph Coelho is a poet, playwright and children's book author including the Luna Loves series

Benjamin Robert Haydon
Punch or May Day (1829)


Turn your attention to a character in this scene. What is their story?

5. Alexandra Sheppard, author

The Rehearsal

The figure crouches in the shadows, the empty rehearsal room lying before them. They practised all day, and now the daytime sun has dwindled into night. Still, they have yet to perfect the leap.

It is time.

The figure steps into the corner. Arms grow taut and tense. The thigh lifts. They prepare to soar.

Alexandra Sheppard is a YA author including OH MY GODS


Remember a time when you took a big risk. How did you feel? Close your eyes and take yourself back to that moment.

About Story Space

Visit the Manton Studio at Tate Britain to explore our library of books by authors and illustrators who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. With a range of stories that centre children of colour, Story Space aims for every child to see themselves reflected in the books they read. In collaboration with Tate Publishing, Knights Of Publishing, New Beacon Books.

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