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Image of 'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' by Paul Delaroche, 1833.
Malorie Blackman, bestselling author of books for children and young adults, worked with 150 Year 8 students from Skinners' School for Girls.

Here she describes what she wanted the students to achieve and how they exceeded her expectations.

Why did I choose this particular painting as part of my workshop?

When I was asked to carry out a writing workshop for teenagers based on a painting or paintings from the National Gallery, I wanted to select artwork they could relate to.

'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' by Delaroche seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  It is a particularly poignant painting of a teenage girl facing her final moments.  In the workshop, I gave a little of the background to Lady Jane Grey and explained how she’d been used by those around her, including her own father and husband, to further their own ambitions. She was queen for nine days before she was executed.
The exercise I set the students involved either putting themselves in Lady Jane Grey’s shoes or the shoes of the executioner and writing down in the first person just what they were thinking and feeling at the moment depicted in the painting.  I wanted the students to become the characters they were writing about and in that way, whatever they wrote would be honest as it would be from the heart.  It was an exercise in empathy.

The results were even better than I could’ve hoped for.  The students without exception all came up with some amazing work.  The range of emotions was fascinating, not to mention moving – from sorrow, to anger, to chilled resignation.

I had a fantastic day at the National Gallery taking these workshops and I hope the students were as inspired by the exercise as I was by them.

Image of student and Malorie Blackman.Click here for Student Responses.
Image of 'The Execution of Lady Jane Grey' by Paul Delaroche, 1833.Click here for About the Painting.
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