The Cheltenham Prize competition reserved a special prize for the best entry from a GL postcode, which covers Cheltenham, Gloucester and the surrounding area. The winner of this branch of the competition is Belinda Rimmer of Bishop’s Cleeve with her story ‘Banksy’ which we are proud to give you below.
It’s more than just playing, let’s get that straight. We’re called gamers, but that don’t explain it either. I mean, you can create these characters who go all over the place and do amazing things. No other character will ever do the same. It’s unique. If you get your characters onto the higher levels, there’s benefits: better armour, more equipment, even gold. You really care about ’em – what they do. They’re yours. You created ’em, made their lives. It ain’t lonely, gaming. Not like people say. The best bit is on-line role playing against other kids. There’s a problem with playing that way though. If you make arrangements and don’t turn up you get down graded. Now I always keep my word and take pride in my abilities; it feels a bit special when you win. Everyone wants to be Warriors and go into battle full on. Warriors are all out violence, but it’s hard to manage their rage. I like the Warlocks, the dark magic, the illnesses and diseases they can bring down on your opponents – I like playing dirty.
A game never ends. It just goes on and on. I love that in a game.
At last it’s Saturday. Mum thinks a few of my mates are coming round and we’re going to the park but I have other plans. It’s only a little lie to get her off my back so she won’t stay here and nag me to do my homework and eat a proper lunch and tidy my room and take a shower and get some fresh air … You get the picture. She’s off to town and then on to visit Granddad which will give me eight, maybe ten hours clear for gaming.
Sometimes on a Saturday I play all day and all night. Week nights are more tricky – you hope the game won’t hook you in so you can get some sleep. One day I fell asleep in Maths. Head right down on the desk. A letter got sent home to make sure I got to bed regular and Mum turned a bit nasty after that, wanting to check my light was out. Soon as she was asleep though, I’d get up again. That only happened once, falling asleep in maths, and now things are back to normal.
Anyhow, school’s boring. Everything’s boring. Except for gaming. You always feel good when you’re playing and you forget about how bad life is. Afterwards, you feel restless and want to play some more.
It’s five o’clock. I’ve forgotten my chores – wiping the dishes, tidying my room, putting out my dirty washing. I always tell myself to do the jobs early but always forget. When Mum gets back she’ll sound off. She won’t be too hard on me though, not since the last time when I lost my temper. She’s scared of me and I’m not proud of that. The problem is when she forces me off the game it can make me flip. Soon as I settle down, I’m sorry. See, coming off the game, that’s the hard bit.
Right now, I can’t stop my leg from twitching. It does that when I sit too long. Guess I look weird with a twitching leg. Got a head ache too. They say the light from the screen, and the way your eyes don’t look at things far away, gives you the headaches. I learnt this from the telly – a programme about kids who get addicted. I’m not addicted. I can quit. I just don’t want to. One time, after I’d finished playing, I couldn’t straighten my back so I felt like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. My dad took me to see that film when I was a little kid. I remember how on that day I wore the entire Everton strip: shorts, socks and top. Me and my dad, we both still support Everton. It was my dad who got me into gaming. When I stayed over at his we played for hours. He stopped bothering and I just carried on. I think about my dad a lot, about the new kid in his life.
Something interesting has happened. Last night, this guy, Banksy, did a painting on a wall at the end of our street. It’s a graffiti painting about the place I live, Cheltenham, and a place my dad used to work before he moved to London called GCHQ. At GCHQ they listen out for terrorists and things like that. I don’t know if my dad did that because he wasn’t allowed to say, but I reckon he did. This guy, Banksy, he’s painted three old fashioned spies on the wall of the house. They’re standing round a phone box – the real one at the end of our street – like they’re taping conversations. I think it’s cool the way he’s given the spies sunglasses and hats and made them life-sized. Although I’ve walked past that phone box every day for years, I never bothered with it until it became the centre of a painting by Bansky. I feel proud to live in Cheltenham and have a dad who worked at GCHQ.
No one knows where Banksy lives, except it’s in Bristol, so I can’t write him a letter to say thanks.
Bet the other gamers are wondering where I’ve been. Well, I’ve been hanging around the Banksy painting at the end of my street. Every day, loads of people come with their cameras. Today, this lady asked me to take a photo of her standing in the phone box. I laughed out loud when she looked like she was in the painting too. Then she took a photo of me on my phone, a good one.
When I got home, Mum said she would buy me some upgrades for my game if I go and see a doctor about my headaches. Suppose I could do that, just to please her, but they’re not so bad these last few days. The headaches, I mean. The things I’ll buy with the money from Mum: There’s this character, a Human, I want to move to a different realm. I need extra fingers for my gnomes so they can make more mischief. And I want to buy a portal back to an old world. One I really enjoyed. One I miss.
I think I’ll make my purchases tomorrow or maybe the day after.
Bad news. The owner of the house at the end of our road wants to sell the Banksy painting to an art dealer. He wants to hack out the wall, painting and all, and sell it off. Then it’ll end up somewhere it don’t belong – inside someone’s house. It won’t mean nothing in some swanky flat in London. It belongs to Cheltenham. Anyway, what’s a person want with spies in their front room?
The council is trying to stop him. A man can’t just demolish a wall of his house without written permission, and that won’t be easy to come by. But a Banksy is worth a fortune and he’s all out to find a way to sell it.
At the moment, there’s scaffolding and plastic over the painting so you can’t see the spies or even the phone box. Everyone round here says it’s wrong to take our painting away. I can’t stop thinking about Banksy and how he gave his picture to this town and how unfair it is to sell it off. Worse than stealing.
I’m sitting in front of the Banksy painting to stop ’em from tearing it down. It’s like when people sit in trees so builders can’t flatten a forest. I’ve made a placard out of a cardboard box and an old marker pen: LEAVE OUR PICTURE ALONE. DO NOT TAKE IT AWAY. IT BELONGS HERE. BANKSY MADE IT FOR US. I only just finished that message before the marker pen ran out.
Glad I’m used to sitting still for a long time; I’ve been stuck here for over three hours.
A photographer has taken my picture for the newspaper and a lady has interviewed me for the local telly. She asked me loads of questions and then she spoke into the camera: Kyle Rogers is a ten year old boy who is trying to save the Banksy painting. If someone so young can act to save this wonderful piece of street art, then what about the rest of us? Surely, the people of Cheltenham can raise enough money to secure its future?
Since my appearance on the telly everyone is talking about the Banksy painting. The man hasn’t sold it either. So we still have it, at least for the time being. I ain’t saying it’s saved, but we’ve got a good chance of keeping it now. Some people say it’s my doing, and I reckon that’s right. If you believe in something so strongly you need to put up a dogfight and that’s what I did, for the pride of Cheltenham and for my dad who worked at GCHQ and for our street and for me so I can smile when I walk to school instead of scowling as usual.
All of this business with the painting has made me want to be a journalist when I grow up. That way I can report on things that don’t seem fair and make a difference. Mum’s even bought me these notebooks, the same as the ones reporters use, and a clipboard. She lets me use her lap top too to write stuff on, seeing as how I’m serious about being a journalist.
At school, I write for the school paper. I go around to all the classes and kids talk to me about things that interest them – mostly the poor food, the bullies, the length the girls can wear their skirts – so I can write it up and put it in the paper.
I’m doing an article on gaming. Some of the kids have problems with how long they spend doing it. Some of them deny they’re addicted. Some own up. I guess I was addicted till I got down to saving the Banksy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got problems, but they’re just a lot smaller now.