The Rooker Prize Winner 2024! – Lewes Community Football Club

The Rooker Prize Winner 2024!

The Rooker Prize Winner 2024!

Community news

Written by: Jack

On International Crow and Raven Day 2024, Lewes FC can announce the winner of our writing competition The Rooker Prize! Lewes resident James Ellis, who has written and crowdfunded two novels of his own, is now ‘absolutely thrilled’ to win the football club’s annual competition, sponsored by award-winning music podcast The Rockonteurs and publishers Hachette UK.

Lewes FC – owned by over 2500 worldwide community shareholders and rising – has brought democracy to the running of a football club. The Rooker Prize seeks to democratise writing competitions by welcoming entries of just the first 250 words of a novel of any literary genre.

James’ opening to ‘Fizz’ was judged by a panel, including Orion Books’ publisher Emad Akhtar, children’s author Georgia Byng, women’s football writer Suzy Wrack, author Mark Crick, and Lewes FC’s Karen Dobres, to be ‘vivid, well-structured and engaging’, ‘nicely observant’, and displaying ‘sophisticated humour’, leaving the judges’ keen to know more about the character of Kale Adams’.

The club presented James with the prize’s hand-crafted oak trophy, especially made by local carver Neil Turner, on Saturday 27th April – International Crow and Raven Appreciation Day .

Famously nicknamed ‘The Rooks’ – after both the town’s castle and the birds which nest around home ground The Dripping pan – Lewes FC is 100% socially-owned and makes the link between football and culture in many ways, seeking to reach out and include the whole community in its endeavours.

James said: ‘I am absolutely thrilled. It’s fantastic news; not only to have won but to have had the opportunity to enter. Community initiatives like the Rooker Prize are an essential lifeline to writers, giving oxygen to their work, helping to keep the dream alive. I’m buzzing.’

The writer now wins a coveted session with an expert editor at Hachette UK in London for feedback and advice.

James also wins £250 for a charity of his choice and has chosen Shooting Star Children’s Hospice. I used to volunteer for them as a kitchen porter, and was later an ambassador. They receive no government funding at all and make an enormous difference to the children’s and their parents’ lives.

Lewes FC’s Karen Dobres said, ‘We had 30 entries this year, which is an incredible response from our community. At some point we will rival the Booker as we continue to take the ‘daunt’ out of novel-writing by encouraging people to go for it – just as our footballers do’.

The winning entry can be read below. Find out more about James’ work at:

Also shortlisted by the judges for special commendation were:

‘Brian’s Brain’ by Nikkan Woodhouse, ‘The Outcast’ by Paul Hayward, and ‘Hidden Hand’ by Martha Goyder.

Fizz by James Ellis

If you’re outside the ‘All Day-Every Day’ convenience store when Kale Adams pulls up in his old dusty car, you might wonder what kind of person drives a mechanical throwback like that. I mean, hello? Ever heard of the environment?

Watch him stomp inside and you think, ‘Okay. I get it. He’s some kind of ageing roadie,’ what with his scuffed boots, old jeans and faded tour t-shirt. But Kale’s never been to a gig in his life. You’d do better to guess his age because, to be blunt, he looks every day of it: hair flecked with grey like he’s painted a ceiling, face falling off his bones, body stocky and compact but definitely inches thicker than it used to be.

Follow him into the shop; you might as well. A woman wearing a dressing gown sits behind the counter. She looks like this is the one job in the whole world she specifically said she didn’t want. Wait while he buys a newspaper and now’s your chance to say something. Well, good luck with that. No offence, but you’re just an obstacle between him and his car. He leaves you hanging and you look at the shopkeeper, but she’s not interested in you either. Bad day for the old ego.

You go outside and he’s gone. You’re left with a cloud of smoke and a feeling that all you are (and all you’ll ever be) is a walk-on part in somebody else’s life. Or worse yet, your own.Bottom of Form


Other Shortlisted finalists

The Outcast by Paul Hayward

High on the Downs, on a disused racecourse, a man leans from the passenger seat of his car and drops papers onto a small fire.

Wisps of smoke curl from the pyre. In the field below, larks thrust and soar. The car rests in a place where cars don’t go, beside a grass gallop, with no road.

The figure is listless but methodical. Each sheet is studied then lowered to the flames. He’s turning documents to ash.

His disgrace is on the public record now, but he won’t give them more. He won’t let them see these papers turning to smoke. Beyond the Downs, light shifts on the sea, cloud shadows race along the vast chalky hollows of the hills.

These parts of his past may yet destroy his future, if he can find one, so they burn in the chalk and flint of a land he thought he could make his own.

When they come, they come for the little people, not for the big names, with their expensive lawyers and their influence. They take the ones the sport can afford to lose. On the sliding scale of power and disposability, he’s fallen on the wrong side. They’ve left him with his shame while the show goes on without him.

The papers all burned, he eases himself out of the car and spreads the hot ashes with his boot. People come up here to spread the remains of dead loved ones.

Dust to dust. Leave the past here. Go home and start again.

Brian’s Brain by Nikkan Woodhouse

Oh God, the Hendersons were coming on Saturday. Brian didn’t even really know who the Hendersons were, other than the family behind the small parcel which arrived each Christmas and which was mysteriously labelled “with love from Paul, Sue, Sally-Ann,

Nicholas and Andrew”. Mum had explained the connection but it didn’t register in Brian’s Brain.

But then Brian’s Brain was a rather unusual brain. Brian didn’t mind, in fact it was the only brain Brian had ever had or known so it didn’t strike him as at all strange that it was inhabited and controlled by a motley mob of military men. Didn’t all small boys have constant communication with a mini-army in their heads? Mum said she didn’t think so, and that his brain wasn’t ‘typical’ or something.

WEEEOOOOOOHHHHH WEEEEOOOOOHHHH!! Uh oh, there goes the Warning Alarm, thought Brian. The Warning Alarm always sounded to alert Brian’s Brain to an incoming order, usually delivered through Brian’s Ear. The orders came from what the Military Men in Brian’s Brain knew as the Groan-Greys – those moany old adult people who were always inventing new obstacles and problems for him to deal with. Brian could feel Vice-Marshall Very-Important scrambling into position and unrolling the command.

The Vice-Marshall coughed (an appropriately deep and important sounding cough) and read aloud (in a slightly surprising high and affected voice): “Brian darling, before The Hendersons arrive please tidy your room and clear up the sitting room. They don’t want to be tripping over all that Lego!”.

Hidden hand by Martha Goyder

(Genre: teenage thriller)

“My phone is haunted.”

There, he’d said it. And it sounded as stupid in real life as it did in his head.

The shop man barely glanced up. “Data use spike? I can run a malware check; thirty quid.”

“No,” said Adam, more loudly than he meant to. Two girls, browsing the phone cases near the counter, giggled.

“I mean, that’s not it. You see, it sends messages.”

“Does it really, mate?” More giggling.

“It writes and sends them on its own. Without me. Look.”

He unlocked his phone and handed it over. The man took it in a meaty hand, frowning as he scrolled.

His face had the pock-marked and pasty complexion of a raw celeriac.

“See,” Adam said, “They sound like me, but I didn’t write them. I mean, they say things I’d never say.

And I swear, it’s been buying stuff. Like, stuff I never wanted; never even knew existed.”

The man stared.

“You got this on the offer, right?”

He pointed at a poster; the words “Apricot smart phone: This Phone Thinks For You”, next to a picture of an orange fruit with jazzy little eyes.

Adam nodded. He’d never liked those eyes.

All at once the blinds at the front of the shop came down, swift and silent as curtains. The girls had vanished; they were alone.

“Hey!” Adam shouted.

“Closing time.” The man picked up the phone. “But not for you. Special service. We’ve got some re-programming to do.”