Heartfelt tributes to Luke FitzHerbert

An original thinker, an uncompromising critic of the establishment, and a man of great warmth and charm: these were some of the descriptions of the late Luke Fitzherbert by speakers at a packed memorial event on Tuesday.

Nearly 300 friends, colleagues and members of his family gathered at the Drapers’ Hall in the City of London to pay tribute to one of the most influential voluntary sector figures of the last twenty years.

A recurring theme among eleven speakers was his pioneering work in persuading grant-makers to be more open and transparent, particularly by writing the frequently revised Guide to the Major Trusts.

Luke, senior researcher and formerly co-director of the Directory of Social Change, was killed by a car while crossing a road in Northamptonshire last January. His wife Kay was seriously injured but has recovered.

She said that Luke – 69 when he died – was a man of phenomenal energy who had lived a complete life. “This is a heart-warming end to a very sad year,” she said.

Michael Norton, founder of the DSC, said Luke had discovered his vocation there: “He single-handedly brought the world of grant-making into the 20th and now the 21st century. Grants are now used more creatively, and with greater public scrutiny.”

John Stoker, former Chief Charity Commissioner, said credit was due to Luke for big changes in charities’ attitudes to accountability. “Luke was ahead of his time, and brave about it,” he said. “He was clear-sighted enough, and tough enough, to get the times to move with him.”

Another tribute came from Peter Jay, former BBC economics editor, who was a friend of Luke for 50 years and went on adventurous sailing trips with him, including Atlantic crossings.

“He had an extraordinary independence of mind, not to say downright eccentricity,” he said. “He was the perfect embodiment of a self-made man – and I don’t mean self-enriched, but that he invented himself from his own convictions, experiences and freely chosen values, the greatest of which was his coruscating honesty.”

Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change, estimated that between 35,000 and 40,000 people had benefited from his training sessions and that he had helped voluntary organisations raise more than £112m.

The programme included some of Luke’s favourite music by Silbelius, Haydn, the 18th century Irish composer John Field and the Petersburg Style Brass Quartet – a group of buskers who played near his home in Devon.

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