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Louie Herbert. A Beautiful Man.

A son, partner, friend and organiser – who lived a powerful life.

Stephanie Wong | 26 Feb 2024

An image of 6 people laughing and smiling.

Act Build Change team meeting in December 2023 Image credit: Ella Frost.

On Monday 19 February, we lost a beloved member of our team at Act Build Change, Louie Herbert. Louie died in the arms of his loved ones and with his cat Saboteur by his side. This news is devastating, but Louie wouldn’t want us to focus on that, he would want to focus on his life and the future.

Louie is known by many for co-founding ACORN with his best friend Nick Ballard above an old antique shop in Bristol, December 2013. It has grown to be one of, if not the largest community union in our country and one of the most significant vehicles for working-class community organising.

Louie was also known for his great hair and a smile like bright sunshine. He joined the Act Build Change team in February 2023. I remember vividly Louie calling me to say he wanted to apply for a role we had going. I thought he was messing with me. It was below his pay grade and experience. He didn’t care. He wanted to teach, to build power and he said this was the right place for him.

I had doubts. I didn’t know Louie and I was worried he wouldn’t be the right fit for the organisation. I knew he was talented and brilliant, but I feared this straight, white, no-nonsense lad would find our work too fluffy and distracting. He would undermine our efforts to bring care and organising together. He could be like so many male organisers that women like myself have had to endure; who impress upon us that only by their guidance, our adoration and the gospel of Alinsky - we may one day get to be as good as they are. I was unbelievably wrong.

Louie with a big red mega phone and ACORN flag.
Louie loving his mega phone with ACORN. Image credit: Louie's Facebook.

Louie had steely politics, zero tolerance for bullshit and a softness that I can’t find the words to describe. He was a beautiful man. Louie was not only a perfect fit for Act Build Change – he elevated our organising and drove an imagination for what we could become. For Louie, our work was so important and he challenged me on that every day. 

Louie was our senior trainer, an organiser like no other and my work brother. When Louie was in training it was hard to find space for anything else. There was just so much of Louie. He would have the room move from anger, to vulnerability, to fits of laughter, to feeling powerful. Most importantly he moved communities to action.

Louie looking into the distance smiling with blue jumper.
Louie Herbert being brilliant. Image credit: Ella Frost.

Now in true Louie style, I must get real. There were also parts of Louie that drove me crazy. Firstly, Louie’s PowerPoint skills were beyond terrible. I still to this day believe he would make them look extra shit just to wind me up. Louie loved gossip and had absolutely no respect for hierarchy. I was called ‘mate’ on his first day and every day until he was no longer here. If Louie didn’t like the work, you would hear about it. In his first week, I invited him to a meeting about a new potential campaign. I asked him ‘what do you think?’ Louie looked me dead in the eyes and said ‘what a bag of wank’. 

Louie’s direct and unapologetic way of being was something I cherish about him. He was real. In a sector filled with so much hot performative air, he was refreshing. Unlike so many, Louie actually made the lives of the poor and working class more powerful. He won alongside them, and he mentored and campaigned with them all his life. He is loved and respected by all of us who feel a part of that struggle.

For Louie, nothing was too good for the skint, the broken, the sick, the fleeing, the oppressed. He understood solidarity in practical terms, and it was felt by all he worked with. He won hundreds of thousands of pounds in repairs, better wages, ending evictions, and securing better homes, jobs and health services. 

Louie joined Act Build Change because he wanted to train a whole new generation of organisers and in the year he was with us – he did. He loved the craft, and he was outstanding at it. He challenged you to be excellent but was never cruel – he wanted the best for you. 

Act Build Change team smiling in black and white.
Louie Herbert and Ez Chigbo in one of their ridiculous joking moments. Image credit: Ella Frost.

Louie was an organiser, and as all good organisers should, I believe these would be his asks:

  1. Join a union. He would want many of you to join ACORN specifically, but whatever union you choose, join one.
  2. Train. Whether with Act Build Change or elsewhere, train in organising and practice it. It's going to be the biggest fight of our lives to bring about the world as we need it. So train and organise. 
  3. Get that extra gin. Wear the glitter. Kiss your cat. Cook that delicious meal and go for extras. Be late because last night was just too good to miss. Tell the people you love that you love them. Life is too unbelievably short.
  4. Louie wanted you all to donate to these charities:
  • ACORN: a national community union that brings together all kinds of people to work on the issues that matter to us.
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign: the biggest organisation in the UK dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights.
  • Aid Box Community Bristol: Support, Supplies, and Sanctuary for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in Bristol.

I will miss our chats Louie. I tried hard not to get too close because CEO leadership is complicated. But it was impossible with you. We grew up in different parts of the UK at different times, but we were also made of so many of the same threads. We shared a vision of the world, and we were going to fight for it together. The possibility of that future is no longer real. Louie’s legacy will live on in so many ways at Act Build Change – we will miss him painfully.

We only got to know Louie for a year, so I can’t imagine the pain those closer to him are feeling. It’s hard to imagine our Monday morning team meetings without him: his silly smile and blow-by-blow accounts of his latest culinary successes. He frequently told us about meals he had made for his partner Abi, boastfully declaring them the ‘best meal he ever made.’ He loved Abi, his parents Chris and Mick, his many friends and, of course, Leeds United Football Club. Louie loved fighting the good fight and all cats, as well as his own (Sabby and Gwyn). 

Louie, I hope I get to see you in that festival in the sky. Until then, solidarity brother. Yes, your life was cut unbelievably and unfairly short, but boy did you live it spectacularly.

In solidarity,
Stephanie Wong
Act Build Change