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The Crack Magazine


Ghost Signs (Poverty and the Pandemic) by Stu Hennigan

There’ll never be a great book written about the Covid lockdown. That was the line spouted by some of the middle-class literati possibly because they couldn’t imagine writing anything about their big houses and gardens without coming across as, you know, a little bit privileged. Meanwhile, all those living in more precarious circumstances were, in many cases, living and dying in misery. How do I know this? Because Stu Hennigan volunteered to deliver food parcels at a council food distribution centre and, during the first months of the first lockdown, wrote about what he saw. The resulting book, Ghost Signs (Poverty and the Pandemic), is a raw, gritty and always intense journey around the mainly deprived and broken bits of Leeds where deep rooted poverty highlighted the fact that the UK’s much vaunted welfare system no longer seemed fit for purpose - and certainly not during any kind of public health emergency. There are desperate and heart-breaking stories throughout. Which, if you’ve been paying attention, aren’t just Covid related but the result of years of Tory Party austerity and a total lack of care and compassion by a bunch of nasty party MPs, who will never really understand what poverty is or actually means. The mantra ‘We are all in this together’ was always a sick joke. Which becomes sicker when you realise that the people who only just survived through Covid will now have to face a cost-of-living crisis with little help from the same bunch who created austerity while talking absolute bollocks about ‘levelling up’. Ghost Signs has been compared to The Road to Wigan Pier, but to my mind it’s better than that. Stu Hennigan has written a heart wrenching modern classic and then, unlike most writers, dares the reader to make a difference. Your local area needs you.

Ghost Signs (Poverty and the Pandemic) – Stu Hennigan -publ. Blue Moose Books - £12.00

Steven Long