A review by appenthaknows
Ghost Signs by Stu Hennigan


I’ve been reading this slowly because it’s challenging. We’re never often confronted with a deep hard stare at poverty, not what we think it is, but what it actually is. So many years of Daily Mail quips about the ‘benefit scroungers’ with huge TV’s have hardened opinion away from the realities of what it means to be poor in 2022.

Across the pandemic lockdowns Stu Hennigan, a Community Librarian from Leeds, worked as part of a huge team delivering food parcels and medicines to the people of Leeds. He journaled his experiences of what he encountered during this time and this is presented alongside the Government daily reporting, the SAGE advice, the headlines during this period.

We all have a tale to tell about how we lived through the Covid-19 pandemic, the furlough, the homeschooling, long queues to get in the supermarkets, the eerie silence of the streets. Health walks, chained and padlocked playgrounds. It was quite rightly, to use a very oft repeated word, unprecedented, and this caused us all to stop and reflect.

Stu’s work took him to all the parts of Leeds we’d perhaps prefer to ignore, the tower blocks, the crumbling back to backs, the boarded up windows of overcrowded HIMO’s. It’s testament to Stu’s humanity that he recorded what he saw there. He had a job to do and he could have walked in and out safe in the knowledge that he’d done his bit to justify his public service wages. What he chose to do though was see, really see the people he met, his book gives a voice to all those who exist on the margins of what we widely believe is our thriving, modern city.

I love Leeds, I’m so proud to live and work here but we can’t go on pretending that the inequality in this City is ok. It’s not ok. It’s not ok for families to live in squalor, it’s not ok for pensioners to live in homes with no flooring and with broken furniture, it’s not ok for women to walk through streets that throb with barely suppressed violence. It’s not ok for children to be filled with joy at the sight of a food parcel.

So many people have done so much for our communities over the last decade of shit show from our government and they continue to keep trying to patch up the broken bits. Please read this book, head over to your usual bookseller or reserve for free from Leeds Libraries. You need to hear this, you need to confront the reality that ultimately nothing has changed in our cities. Yes folk have big TV’s and yes you’ll often see them smashed up in gardens but spiritually our people are still broken by a system that is leaving them behind.