Tony Elliott was London. From the age of two, when he moved with his family from Reading to South Kensington, his life was inexorably linked to the city he loved. As a student in the ’60s, he quickly plugged into the city’s countercultural scene. He founded Time Out as a radical listings magazine at 21, and steered it – successfully and (mostly) profitably – through four decades of rapid social change. He mentored a generation of independent-minded magazine publishers, editors and journalists, fought for social justice, minority rights and the conservation of
London’s historic buildings, and, behind the scenes, was an indefatigable supporter of the capital’s arts and culture industries.
From the ’90s onwards he took Time Out global, launching magazines in 60-odd cities plus a definitive series of travel guide books, a website covering more than 300 destinations, and six editor-curated Time Out Markets. But despite all that globetrotting, Tony remained a lifelong Londoner, and it was there that he died on July 17, at the age of 73.
It’s hard to overstate how much Tony’s ‘big idea’ changed London and the world. By launching Time Out, he embarked on a lifelong mission to make the city’s best happenings (from weird art and subcultural club nights to food, drink and shopping) more accessible to more people than ever before. Long before the internet, Time Out democratised culture, making anyone who picked up a copy an instant insider. That was entirely down to Tony’s obsession with ‘the information about the information’: not just giving readers the bare details of an event or new opening – the what, when and where – but telling you why it mattered.
Within the company, Tony’s attention to detail was as legendary as his penchant for a paisley shirt. Despite stepping away in 2010 from full ownership of Time Out, he remained energetically involved as a board member right to the end, reading the magazines assiduously, prowling its city websites and invariably sending feedback to editors. He believed that Time Out at its best was the only guide you needed to make the most of city life, and that belief still inspires us all.
As soon as news broke of Tony’s death, we began to hear from the people who knew him best: family and friends, contacts and cultural leaders, Time Out staff past and present. Below, you’ll find tributes and memories from just a few of the people whose lives Tony touched. Without him, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Time Out will miss his guiding, questioning presence, and London has lost one of its greatest ever champions.
Underground origins: the 1960s
Young Tony Elliott was enrolled at Keele University in the Midlands, but spent most of his time driving his VW Beetle down to London to soak up the city’s chaotic, exploding counterculture. In the summer of ’68, after a stint editing the Keele magazine Unit, he decided London needed a comprehensive, accurate guide to all the best places to go out. After unsuccessfully offering to take over the listings page of countercultural bible International Times, Tony turned his idea into the first issue of Time Out: a fold-out A5 pamphlet, printed with birthday money from his aunt.
Issue 1, published on August 12 1968, included sections on art, film, buildings and political demos (‘Meet the Fuzz’). Tony’s girlfriend Stephanie Hughes covered theatre, shopping and ‘rabbit food’. Bob Harris (later a BBC DJ) compiled the music listings and helped Tony get the magazine seen; he and Tony distributed Time Out to hip shops around London, and sold it at the Rolling Stones’ legendary Hyde Park concert.
Soon the magazine went fortnightly. By the end of 1969, Time Out had a basement office, a small team of clued-up editors and a groovy readership of 10,000 – including psychedelic luminaries like David Bowie and Marc Bolan. ‘We were a bright light,’ said Tony later: ‘The one magazine that covered the new underground, independent culture alongside the best of the mainstream.’
Rose Elliott, Tony’s sister
Summer 1968. I was 14 and Tony, my brother, was 21. Endless half-drunk cups of coffee littering our now famous kitchen table in our mother’s new flat in Gloucester Road (our father having finally, permanently, left the old one after years of false starts) and where, indeed, Time Out was conceived, the cost being covered by our Aunt J’s twenty-first birthday present to Tony the previous January. Bob Harris was there (not for long – but that’s another story!) and so was Tony’s girlfriend Steph, who wore wonderful black satin Biba dresses that I coveted and that were shockingly short!
Concerts up the road in Hyde Park, my friend Jasmyn and I trying to sell Time Out for a shilling whilst walking around the Serpentine, me barefoot in a long purple taffeta dress from our ‘dressing up’ box (the first issue as a broadsheet being a nightmare to unfold and show people!)
One evening being bundled into the back of Tony’s white VW Beetle with a bucket of wallpaper paste and a brush, then nipping out to fly-post the first Time Out posters around Earl’s Court (narrowly avoiding interested police).
Visiting the first office in Princedale Road in my lunch hour from Holland Park (school), bag of chips in hand. Later, going to the Gray’s Inn Road office after college to catch a lift from Veronica, our sister, who worked with John Leaver on getting in the ads, and having to sidestep Jock the tattooist on the way in, as he tended to gently letch from his tiny parlour next door. My priceless TIme Out press pass that got Jasmyn and me into ‘Implosion’ at the Roundhouse on Sunday afternoons after patiently riding the 31 bus from World’s End to Chalk Farm. Later, helping get copy out, strike-breaking at the Covent Garden office, and then there were the legendary Time Out parties that grew ever bigger and more lavish.
Before all that, though, was Tony the boy, my older brother.
Visiting him at school to take him out for the day, family holidays to France and Switzerland – where Aunt J was head of a school – camping in Austria when the three of us got horrendous food poisoning and when Tony and our father had to dig a trench around our tent to create a moat because it rained so hard. Every Easter our mother would rent a house in Middleton on the seafront and pack us into her little yellow Austin van, including Ret the Labrador and even Mitty our black-and-white cat, to spend a month by the sea renting bikes to ride and sometimes also horses from the local stables.
Back home, playing darts in ‘the nursery’ – our kids’ room in our first flat – where Tony’s white hamster Romeo (Veronica’s was, inevitably, Juliet) escaped and ate holes in the green carpet behind his desk, by the shelf that held all the Airfix planes he had painstakingly, perfectly (obviously) glued together with Uhu.
Tony buying me my first Levi’s 501s and making me wear them lying in a full bath of water to shrink them in the approved fashion, then getting me to put flares in his pair (very precisely, in matching denim) and my ending up with a production line for his friends.
Taking me to see Cliff in ‘Summer Holiday’ – just us.
That was my brother Tony – and I love and miss him beyond measure.
Nicholas Ferguson CBE
Believe it or not, I met Tony at a dancing class when we were both 11. As the years went on we graduated to the Marquee Club in Soho. I’ve always thought that Tony’s interest in what to do in London stemmed from those years. On one occasion, we had tickets to stand in the gods for a concert at the Albert Hall. It must have been around 1963. The line-up, if I remember correctly, was Cliff Richard And The Shadows, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Joe Delaney And His Big Band Sound, and then The Beatles. Neatly cut hair, matching collarless suits and ties. The house exploded and we realised we’d seen the early part of a phenomenon. I hadn’t realised that I was also standing beside one.
Nicholas Ferguson CBE is a businessman
In the winter of 1967-68, a couple of sales reps came to my office to sell me on the idea of advertising my UFO club posters in Student magazine. One was Richard Branson, the other Tony Elliott. I booked the ad. Of the pair, Richard became more of a household name, but Tony may have had a more wide-ranging and, I even dare say, more benign effect on the world. The idea of listing everything happening in a week in London in one place seems obvious now, but it was revolutionary in 1968. I would even venture to suggest that the way we use the internet today is due in part to the way Tony Elliott and Time Out shaped our brains. A generous, cultured and extraordinarily nice man, Tony never failed to keep up with what old friends were up to and to engage with people of all walks of life. A quietly transformative guy, a one-off who changed our world.
Joe Boyd is a music producer
In the summer of 1968 I was running an arts magazine programme on BBC1 called ‘How It Is’. Through a friend, Bob Harris, I was approached by this very young chap called Elliott who sounded as if he needed a job. I agreed to meet him and he showed up in my office at the BBC with a single sheet of information called Where It’s At. He said he thought our title (‘How It Is’) was so similar that I might be interested. The single sheet could be folded into quarters. I told him his title was crap but the idea was good. Above all, I thought he was a very nice chap, genuine and serious, unlike most of the rabble who came through the door at that time. He noticed I had a copy of Leonard Cohen’s poems called ‘Parasites of Heaven’ on my desk. I told him he should include poetry in his listings. We asked him to come back in ten days’ time and appear on the show Friday, August 9th 1968. After all, BBC1 at 6pm to a network audience of several million might help get his sheet noticed, I said. He did; he’d by now changed the title to TIME OUT and had even included a poem by Leonard Cohen, and the rest, as they say, is… I’m very proud to have helped his brilliant idea on its way, and very proud to have to have known this exceptionally nice man.
Tony Palmer is a film director
I think probably the best thing I did for Tony (at least I think I did) was introduce him to [long-time Time Out designer] Pearce Marchbank – my oldest friend – in 1969. So many underground press people gravitated to Time Out, but I don’t categorise it as ‘underground’. Nor, I think, would Tony have done. That said, Tony was one of the founding fathers of what was known as the counterculture. He was, however, a great deal more focused than most.
Jonathon Green is a writer and lexicographer
I joined Time Out to set up and run an ad sales team in 1968 on issue 2, when the mag was still small. Tony’s editorial vision proved popular, ad sales flourished and I was there till 1973. It was a wonderful time – we were all about the same age and feeling our way. We were all the better I think for not having someone more experienced to tell us how things should be done.
John Leaver, former advertising director at Time Out
I met Tony at the end of the ’60s when Time Out was in its infancy. A review of a show of mine was the first art review the magazine ever published.
The late ’60s was, as legend has it, a wonderful time to be young, engaged, optimistic and hopeful for a better, fairer, more inclusive world. Tony Elliot epitomised those values and became one of the few of us who were able to translate that idealism into a practical reality: Time Out.
It is almost impossible to understand in this age of instant access to information how hard it was to find out what was going on in any field of cultural activity in London in those days. There were listing magazines but they were largely aimed at tourists – the comparatively prosperous-looking for a good time out in the metropolis. By contrast, Time Out was for Londoners, particularly the young. It was written for us and largely by people like us. It covered all the main cultural events and venues but also the most marginal, the most modest, radical and provocative.
Exhibitions in alternative venues were listed alongside those at the best-known galleries. The same held true for all the other arts: music, film, dance, performance, theatre. Time Out was crucial in creating new audiences for the arts and in doing so contributed immeasurably to the exceptionally rich cultural life London has enjoyed over the past decades.
The magazine became known for taking strong positions on current political, social, and cultural issues.
Many people I then knew and admired subsequently abandoned their fundamental ideas, beliefs and values, often contributing wittingly or unwittingly to the appalling political times we live in today. But every time I saw Tony personally, I saw in his undiminished youthfulness, his instinctive optimism, his modesty, kindness and generosity of spirit that he had not changed. He still held to all those values we believed could be honoured in our very innocent youth. To have held his moral ground so steadfastly while achieving such an enormous success in his life’s endeavour was proof it could be done, and a lasting tribute to his character.
Tony’s passing is for me a true and sad sign of the end of an era, and I will be one of the many who will greatly miss him.
Michael Craig-Martin is an artist
1968 was quite a year: where to start? The assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy? The escalation of the Vietnam War? The Tet Offensive? The Prague Spring? ‘You say you want a revolution’ sang John Lennon in ’68, memorably picking up the vibe. ‘We all want to change the world…’
In Mao’s China, the Cultural Revolution continued on its course, while in the West there was civil unrest. In Paris, students took to the streets to protest against, capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism… well, just about everything!
However, in London, as we approached the end of the swinging 60s, political activism and sexual liberation were comfortable bedfellows. The miners’ strike is looming, Enoch Powell’s incendiary ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech has imploded. Politics are in disarray. Nevertheless, the high street is thriving. Culture and counterculture prevail: fashion, film, food, sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. The clubs are full, the fringe is hyperactive. It’s the year of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘2001 a Space Odyssey’. Meanwhile, a young man called Tony
Elliott (with a little help from his friend Bob Harris) decides to launch a magazine from his mum’s kitchen table.
He was just 21 years old but Tony was always a practical chap and could see that despite the zeitgeist circulating in the city of London there was no paper or magazine that captured it all. He had the entrepreneurial gene and, like Richard Branson round the same time, he was looking for opportunities. As time moved on, Tony liked to recall that the beguiling options facing him in his late teenage years were ‘free love or commerce’ and he opted for the latter. But Tony wasn’t in it for the money or for personal gain. He was profoundly principled and over the years turned down substantial financial offers which may have made him rich, but could compromise him and diminish his control.
As Time Out grew and expanded its reach to other cities across the globe, (including Time Out New York) approaches came from big players like Rupert Murdoch and Condé Nast, but Tony held firm. Public service was always part of his DNA.
Me too. I was a new boy at the BBC in 1968 and it was thanks to Time Out that I made my first visit to the Roundhouse, and lapped up those Godard films at the ICA. Who knew I’d become addicted to those free early morning swims at the Serpentine in Hyde Park? I was a fan from day one and saw it grow from strength to strength. Tony Elliott was a pathfinder and an innovator. From a double-sided A2 sheet of paper in August 1968, Time Out blossomed in the early ’70s into an essential, inclusive guide to the London scene and it wasn’t just the copy and the content that impressed and stood out; the covers and the design were truly original and eye-catching thanks to the iconic Time Out logo commissioned by Tony from the brilliant Pearce Marchbank.
Time Out is still on the march in 326 cities worldwide.
In 2010, acknowledging the need to take on a partnership to enable the brand to expand into the digital realm, Tony began to step back from the day-to-day, hands-on management which he’d led for over 40 years. It’s important to understand, however, that Tony Elliott dedicated his life to more than just family and friends and his pioneering magazine. And however ambitious he might have been, he was always modest about his achievements. He felt empowered by curiosity and creativity and much of his time was devoted to organisations which shared those goals. The Roundhouse, The BFI, The Manchester Festival, Somerset House. Tony served on the board of all these cultural institutions and was a tireless and fearless supporter of the creative industries. He spent a great deal of his time thinking through how he could find ways to make things work better. A special passion was Human Rights Watch, an organisation which has never hesitated to confront anyone and everyone on behalf of the abused and the dispossessed.
My close friendship with Tony has lasted a very long time. I will miss him terribly as will my partner Philippa and our children. We were lucky to be able to spend time with Janey and Tony in those difficult last weeks. He couldn’t have been bolder or braver. We talked about the past and the future, about Janey and the boys, our family holidays, Brexit, Boris, Bowie and that eleventh-hour decision to name his new venture Time Out…
Alan Yentob is a writer and broadcaster
Autumn 1969. I walked into the new offices of Time Out magazine at the King’s Cross end of the Gray’s Inn Road. I was dressed up for the occasion wearing a purple leather jacket, yellow loon pants and a pair of cowboy boots. I thought I looked cool but later on I was told I looked like a spiv. I had arranged an interview for a sales representative job (spaceman) with a chap called John Leaver. I had heard about this new London listings magazine from a designer friend Allan Tanner who I had worked with the past eight months on Jersey Life magazine, based in St Helier in the Channel Islands. When I walked into the ground-floor offices I immediately felt intimidated by all the young people flitting around sounding rather posh, like a scene from a college rag. How’s a secondary-school lad from south London going to fit in here? Nobody sounded like they were from my manor. John was a tall bearded guy with a broad welcoming smile and a firm handshake. After a few questions and a little banter it felt to me that he liked me and he took me up to meet the publisher Tony Elliott who looked at me like something the cat had brought in. His eyes following my every gesture, he seemed to wince when I spoke. I got that unnerving feeling his body language was saying – no f****** way!
We left Tony’s office with John looking a little grave as we walked downstairs to the front door, over the noise of Gray’s Inn Road, John said don’t worry I’ll speak with him and I’ll call you next week. To me it was obvious I hadn’t won Tony’s approval and I hadn’t got the job. So I was rather surprised the following Monday to receive a call from Mr Leaver. It was short and upbeat with a question: when can you start? I was amazed and couldn’t help mentioning this to John, who said I had to sell you to Tony and in the end he left the decision to me, see you next week. That was how I joined Time Out, thanks to JL, as he would affectionately be known by me. But Tony was out to prove JL wrong, bringing in all kinds of new rules. One was a weekly Friday-morning meeting at 8.45am. After the first couple I decided they were a waste of time and outta bloody-mindedness I turned up late for every one thereafter. This was sacrilege to Tony and was punishable with the sack, unless one had a bulletproof excuse. This was my crusade by making sure every time I was late I had at least a half-page order in my pocket with that date. Tony would be furious before I showed up, shouting at JL: ‘Where’s Maguire? This is it, he’s definitely for the chop this time!’ I was like the cat who’d got the cream, walking in with a sullen look at first, with Tony’s steely eyes on me and a stern voice asking ‘What time do you call this?’ I’d then let rip with a big smile, saying I’d been with a client, check this out… ORDER! Tony’s response was always the same – ‘F****** MAGUIRE! How do you do it?’
This cat-and-mouse game went on for the best part of a year. Tony even commandeered his sister Veronica to keep a weekly dossier on my movements to try and trip me up, but to no avail; I was too fly for them (coming from aeroplane street). Like a magician, I always had an order to pull out of the hat that would ‘trump’ any misdemeanour. However, there was one incident which I didn’t have a safeguard for – a punch-up at the office party, for which my friends and I had purchased some drinks, only to have some arse later think it was part of the free party drink and was fair game to help himself to. To which we all protested, as he was glugging our drinks down like water, I tried to politely pull the bottle away from him only for him to snatch up another bottle, pushing me away. I tried to reason with him but he was having none of it, this time shoving me harder as I tried to wrestle the vodka from him and punching me in the side of the head. That did it, I lost it and retaliated before my friends did, I only hit him once but I opened up his nose and blood went flying everywhere, a commotion started up, pushing, shoving, arguing until finally settling down. Once I recovered my composure I walked over to JL who was DJing and apologised, my friends and I then left with the story and music still reverberating in our ears as I hailed a taxi. Just as my opponent was pulling away in one, shouting out ‘I’ll kill you next time!’
The following Monday I expected to walk in to get the sack. But JL had been busy speaking to people over the weekend getting an all-round picture ready for the Monday meeting Tony had called. I was really relieved to hear that the general consensus was that I had been provoked, I was protecting my property when the guy turned nasty and hit out at me first. Nevertheless, Tony was furious with the damage done to his newly decorated blue office. I made a vow to myself to toe the line and avoid any further trouble. And to work my arse off to bring in more than my quota of revenue every week. Time Out and I were doing really well, going from strength to strength. It was fun working there as part of a successful team with editorial and advertising staff beginning to accept we were all one system... But I was feeling restless and fancied going off to India. I could sense I could bring in a lot more revenue with Christmas nearly upon us. I had a word with JL about a plan I had and he said talk to Tony. So I approached Tony with a cheeky proposal, I told him I was planning on leaving before Christmas, that I thought I could tie up some big long-term contracts and I was hoping in doing so he would agree to still pay me the commission after I left. ‘How long a contract?’ he asked and I replied I was aiming at tying in some full-page advertisers for a 12-month series contract, rate protected. I could see the twinkle in his eyes. ‘You believe you can sign up clients for 12 months? And you want the commission on the 12 months?’ He didn’t think too long and said: ‘Jim, here’s what I’m willing to do, I’ll pay you your full commission on all contracts you bring in before you leave and for six months after only. After that they become house accounts.’ What could I say? We shook hands on it; no paperwork was necessary.
Before leaving for India I had signed up quite a few long-term contracts and left on a high note. I travelled around India for eight months, before catching an overland bus in Kathmandu bound for the UK. I got off in Athens and bummed around the islands for a while before landing back in Athens a couple of months later flat broke. I heard from a fellow traveller that you could sell your blood at the local Red Cross centre. I don’t know how much they took, but it felt like more than an armful (quote: Tony Hancock). The money I received was enough for a ticket on a magic bus to London Victoria and enough left for some bread and cheese and a litre of water. I barely made it over to my friends at Willesden Green tired and exhausted. They fed me a hot meal and made up a bed for me. Welcome home. It was a miserable wet Monday morning, I called Tony at Time Out and told him I’m back safe but flat broke, he told me to come over. I don’t know what I was expecting but Tony welcomed me with a nice big smile and after listening to my road stories, he said it was his pleasure to hand me a cheque for over £2,000. I could have kissed him! What a result. Some years later on a rather sombre occasion, my dear friend Pat Leaver’s funeral, Tony introduced me to his two boys saying, ‘This is Jim Maguire, Time Out’s best salesman from the early days.’ I was totally blown away, what a gent. God bless Tony.
James Maguire worked in the Sales department of Time Out
Politics and picket lines: the ’70s
Facing a challenge from new magazine Ink, Tony took Time Out weekly in 1971, with art director Pearce Marchbank and an expanding crew of left-leaning writers on board. The magazine’s comprehensive coverage, radical politics and bold cover designs made it essential reading for young Londoners – even though Mick Jagger reportedly complained that ‘The problem with Time Out is that you have to cross a picket line to get to the music listings.’
Tony handed over the editor’s chair but remained very much in control – reportedly rebuffing offers from Condé Nast and the founders of New York magazine to buy Time Out. With Tony as publisher, Time Out campaigned to save Covent Garden from demolition and prevent police brutality, and covered early appearances by David Bowie and the rise of Notting Hill Carnival and Rock Against Racism. The magazine experimented with its first spin-offs: a London guidebook, a student guide, a directory of radical community organisations and a consumerist sister magazine, ‘Sell Out’. (The latter was edited by Janet Street-Porter, then married to Tony.)
Even as the magazine increased its coverage of culture, food and shopping, it was also running establishment-baiting news stories – to the point where two Time Out writers were tried for breaking the Official Secrets Act. ‘We were political, but with a small “p”,’ explained Tony later. ‘We were running information from a political environment. It wasn’t just arts and culture and it wasn’t just politics, and that was one of the reasons people responded so well to it.’
‘I first met Tony him in 1970, when I was working for Oz. In February 1972, I was at the Roundhouse for the conference on Freedom and Responsibility in the Media. It was the second of Tony Eliott’s radical initiatives (in conjunction with The Other Cinema) to take the countercultural criticism about the exclusion of working-class and ethnic-minority voices from the mainstream media into a wider public forum. Speaker after speaker, all well-known men, apart from the popular Guardian women’s page columnist Jill Tweedie, had been addressing the conference all morning, when, after lunch, from the front row angry voices erupted. Women stormed the stage to protest at their exclusion. Just five weeks earlier, I’d suggested starting an ‘alternative women’s news magazine’, Spare Rib, which went on to become a byword for second-wave feminism, and earlier that day I’d handed out copies of a stencilled questionnaire about the magazine, never expecting the sisters’ outrage.
Nervously I joined them on the stage. Later that day we heard a Women in Media speaker give the devastating facts as to women’s subordinate role in the structure of television.
This went wildly beyond what Tony Elliott had anticipated, but he didn’t bat an eyelid. Instead, with his twinkly, observant, private optimism, he invited me to join a Time Out editorial meeting to talk more about this new-fangled women’s liberation movement. He then commissioned my first piece of reporting, an account of the Women’s Abortion and Contraception Campaign, which had gathered experience from women all over the country to present as evidence to the government in defence of the ’67 Act, which was then under threat. Within a matter of days, I was also meeting up with Tony for advice about paper suppliers and other such magazine production basics. He was as forthcoming and helpful as ever, unlike many of his male contemporaries, never patronising or taunting about my desire to make Spare Rib happen. Tony had the vision to translate some of those 1960s countercultural ideals into practical realities that could benefit everyone. He did it without tying himself into a narrow political niche, and in accordance with his ethos of expanding cultural inclusivity. Our world would have been a poorer place without him.
Marsha Rowe founded Spare Rib
In 1970 my then boyfriend advertised a room in his Holloway flat in Time Out and ended up letting it to John Leaver, TO’s ad manager. John thought I was just the sort of person who should work at Time Out and arranged for me to meet Tony. He was gorgeous; slim in tight Levis and flowered shirt with long, glossy, dark hair, an amused quizzical look and warm, friendly manner. There were no editorial openings he said but they needed a receptionist for the new offices in run-down King’s Cross, would I do that until something came up? I started immediately and soon discovered that most of the girls at TO either fancied Tony or Pearce, who ran the studio on the second floor, his blonde locks flowing as he pounded up and down the perilous stairs at 374 Gray’s Inn Road in daily different coloured sets of loons and Mr Freedom T-shirts. Tony devised Sell Out for his girlfriend Stephanie Hughes and I was soon working part-time for her, searching out interesting shops and bargains, instigating a jumble sale listing. When Steph went to live in New York, I took over and expanded the section, later (thanks Richard Williams) taking the restaurant column under my wing. Sell Out was so successful that it led to its own magazine (that’s another story) and the restaurant column inspired the TO Eating & Drinking guides.
Two stories linger in my mind from the early King’s Cross days and they show Tony’s imagination and perfectionism. In those days there were only boot-cut Levis and we all wanted flares (like Pearce Marchbanks’ loons). Tony would buy two pairs, cut out part of the leg from one pair and get someone (probably his sister Rose) to undo the outer leg seam and make immaculate flares. We were all skint, on £10 a week parity, so when I noticed his handiwork, he gave me the cut pair and I’d put in my own inserts. Once, when someone came to see me with a board shaped like a thumb with a wipe-free surface so you could write different destinations for hitch-hiking, Tony arranged for Roger Perry, our photographer, to trail us hitching across London from Kings Cross to Richmond for a photographic feature. All copy went through Tony and he was a stickler for detail but there was no boss hierarchy. Someone asked me the other day if working at TO in those early days was like a student magazine and in a way it was because everyone was young yet focussed, united in getting the mag out every week. In the end I got the sack for taking the restaurant column too upmarket (‘why did you leave Time Out’ he asked me 15-odd years later) but it jerked me into a whole new career writing cookbooks and recipe columns, so I can thank him for that too. He came to all my book launches, Janey cooked my recipes, he’d send photos of chorizo dishes in Lisbon (an ongoing chorizo joke) and I have happy memories of recent dinners at my house. Tony was a loyal, supportive friend who always remembered your birthday. I will miss him greatly.
Lindsey Bareham, Sell Out and Restaurant editor at Time Out, 1970-1986
I first met Tony in 1970 and became the business manager of Time Out around 1971. Tony needed someone to produce the first Time Out Guide to London, expand the political content and run some campaigns that Time Out was getting involved in. I ran three very successful political campaigns: one to stop the vested interests taking over the new television channel, one to stop the pulling down of Piccadilly Circus and finally one to open up the reportage of the conflict in Northern Ireland. He was the most successful of the editors of the ‘alternative press’ and his papers reflected the times and had excellent political analysis of the issues facing the young.
Pete Steedman, journalist and politician
When Time Out was starting to grow in the 1970s, the film section met some resistance. Following one bad review, a distributor even refused us permission to see any of their films. Most owner-editors would have been tearing their hair, but Tony never once blinked: freedom always came first. The upside of this was not so much that we could trash movies, but that we were able to champion with impunity films that others found no space for, like early Scorsese, Hellman, Coppola and John Carpenter. All this was a direct result of Tony’s hands-off approach.
David Pirie, screenwriter and former Time Out film editor
Tony’s role in the founding of Channel Four was crucial but typically modest. After a few weeks as Time Out’s books and TV reviewer, I discovered ITV was about to be awarded a second national TV channel. Independent producers and directors were strongly opposed but isolated and disorganised. Tony gave the campaign money to organise a public meeting and free publicity. It was a huge success: we stopped ITV2, the government withdrew its offer and we could start the long process of setting up Channel Four. Without Tony’s help, Channel Four would not exist.
John Howkins, author and speaker
Time Out and Monty Python were born around the same time, and I still have a copy of the entire edition that Time Out devoted to Monty Python in 1969 when to most people we were an obscure fringe phenomenon. Time Out’s endorsement, which included a Terry Giliam cover, meant an awful lot to us at the time. In the same way that we wanted to create a new kind of television comedy, Tony wanted to create a new kind of listings magazine. Both were aimed at a young, bright audience who needed a new voice to express the creative energy of the times.
For me, it sums up the joys of the pre-digital age when print and paper still ruled. When Time Out and London were inseparable and to miss an edition was unthinkable.
I shall always be grateful to Tony for creating something which changed the way London presented itself to the world and made life that much more exciting.
Michael Palin, writer and comedian
I left Manchester University in 1975/76 and wanted to set up a Time Out for the city. So I wrote to Tony, who invited me down to London for a chat. He explained he’d tried to do Time Out in Manchester but couldn’t see a way to make it work. But instead of saying no, he encouraged me to have a go at launching a magazine, and said he would offer any advice (‘just call me’) to help make it work. I launched New Manchester Review and adopted Time Out’s Franklin Gothic typeface. When we ran into problems with cash flow and unions, I rang Tony and he gave me some tips on how to and negotiate. [Time Out MD] Mike Hardwick introduced me to all the film and music advertising clients. The magazine championed the Manchester punk rock music scene and the city’s wider arts and culture, plus strong investigative coverage. So many careers were launched by that magazine. We kept the mag afloat on the back of Time Out, thanks to Tony’s generous help. He gave me the start to a life in journalism.
Andrew Jaspan, former editor at The Observer and The Age
I knew Tony for over 40 years. Socially, it was impossible to think of him without Janey, his wife and support system. Tony met Janey in 1977. She’d recently starting working as a photo researcher for Pearce Marchbank, who was designing the covers for Time Out. Tony paid a visit to Pearce’s studio in Newman Street to check out the latest cover, met Janey, as glamorous then as she is today, and fell for her immediately. They remained together until Tony’s death.
Andrew Bailey, journalist and writer
Tony’s aunt is rightly credited for enabling Tony to create Time Out, but she also helped restore him when his life was out of control from alcohol abuse. We were friends and neighbours at the time, having joined with six other friends in buying a hat factory in Charterhouse Square. It was Janet Street-Porter who quietly escorted Tony to a clinic to spend several weeks drying out. To his great surprise, his aunt visited him in the clinic and revealed she was an alcoholic, and some members of their family had a genetic weakness to alcohol. She told Tony, when attending any gathering in the future, to always have a glass of water in his hand. He succeeded in loosening his alcohol dependency and always followed this advice.
Peter Logan, sculptor
In 1973, my girlfriend Wendy Thomas was working at New York magazine where she sometimes talked to Clay Felker, its founder and editor, about Tony and Time Out. One day, Felker called her into his office and said ‘I want you to call your friend Tony Elliott and tell him I want to buy Time Out.’ At that time, Felker held court in New York as a kind of Sun King. In his approach to Tony, therefore, he was coming on rather like Michael Corleone deciding to buy out Mo Green in The Godfather – only in this instance, he was deputing a foot-soldier to attend to the tiresome business of opening the negotiations. Wendy duly called Time Out and got put through to Tony. ‘Clay Felker has told me to tell you that he wants to but Time Out,’ she said. Without a moment’s hesitation – without pausing to take breath – Tony replied: ‘Tell Clay Felker to f*** off.’ He knew exactly what Time Out was worth, and nobody was going to take his creation away from him.
Neil Lyndon, former features editor at Time Out London
I first met Tony in 1970 when he invited me to join a fledgeling Time Out to help him establish an efficient distribution system. In its early days it relied on street sellers but to survive it had to do two things well. After distribution gaining advertising revenue was what would ensure its survival.
Tony’s attention to detail, minute detail that is, was what made him a stand-out publisher. He would spend an eternity making sure that everything was checked, everything in the layout was straight and every picture and illustration credited. He would go deep into every aspect of what London had to offer and in doing so created a whole new language, spotting trends and encouraging diversity. Fringe theatre, pub rock, agitprop all grew and benefitted but he would also rage if jumble sales were missed out. Lonely hearts got their first chance at dating through the famous classifieds and the magazine was a must for discovering the mysteries of yoga and meditation.
There were early indications that Tony was determined not to be a one-trick pony. In publishing ‘The Book of London’ in 1971 he was good at spotting spin-offs from the weekly magazine.
Tony was very persistent if he thought he was being denied equal opportunity in the media marketplace. Not being able to run [weekly] TV listings, a monopoly held by the BBC [and ITP], irked him and he fought and eventually won a long battle resulting in all publications being able to publish full TV listings.
When John Lennon was shot in 1980, Tony had us quickly back in the office and within 24 hours we had produced a poster magazine tribute that established a publishing format that went on to make the fortune of many publishers.
‘Paris Passion’ (later to become Time Out Paris) was his first foray into other great city guides that set the tone for many others to follow. Tony loved New York and helped establish Andy Warhol’s Interview paper in the UK. He also helped and supported i-D magazine and set up a division that began producing a series of Time Out guidebooks.
Tony’s involvement with the rebirth of the Roundhouse and the trust that supports disadvantaged youth and other charitable work has continued throughout his later life.
I went through so many great times with Tony. Not always easy as we went through the traumas of the political clashes in the ’80s but he was always resolute and endlessly curious. Generous with his offers of help and in sharing his contacts if he thought they could help solve your problems. I will miss him but his legacy is written throughout his work and will survive.
Bob Wilson, Time Out distribution
No one mentions Time Out’s radical economic model: its listings were free. This meant if you were, say, running a film club (as l was), you could advertise to London at no cost. I had to continually explain this to the news trade, as everyone assumed that it was all paid advertising. When discussing Tony’s impact, the fact all these little venues could get free promotion was a fantastic boost to London’s art scene.
Jim Heineman, former Time Out circulation manager
I met Tony in the early ’70s through Richard Neville, one of the founders of the very underground magazine Oz. Tony was part of that crowd but he never seemed particularly radical to me. He wasn't trying to man the barricades; he wasn't establishment or anti-establishment. He struck me as a gentle soul who had a simple idea that turned out to be a necessary idea. Tony was interested in information, in being useful and at one with his reader. He wanted to give them insights into aspects of London life – from its culture to its politics – that they couldn't find elsewhere. And he was extremely good at it. He knew all of the hole-in-the-wall places to eat, he knew fringe theatre, he knew where to see the compelling movies – not at the Odeon in Leicester Square but at some wonderful run-down little cinema in Notting Hill. Everyone pitched in; we all helped him because we liked him so much and saw how brilliant his idea was. He was both of his time and ahead of his time.
Tony was loyal, kind and always generous. Every year on my birthday he would send me a greeting. In the old days, this would be a card, then it became an email, and hearing from him always made me remember the best of times back In London, sitting in his basement while he talked with passion about this idea he had for a new publication.
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief, Vogue
As a young 20-year-old, out and about in London in the early ’70s, Time Out was a godsend. It was the only way to find out who was playing at Dingwalls that night, or what was showing at the Screen on the Green. It’s hard to overemphasise the importance, in these pre-social media days, we all placed on having that week’s copy of the magazine. To me, Tony Elliott was a sort of mythical character behind it all.
Many years later, I was working for David Bowie as his PR when he asked me to fill in for him at a board meeting for a magazine called Modern Painters, of which Tony was a major shareholder. I was really struck by his energy and enthusiasm. My recollection of Tony was that he was gentle, persuasive, great to be around and above all an enthusiast; same as Bowie, he had that lust for life. He was a visionary, always looking for new ideas and ways to take the magazine world forward.
Alan Edwards, music publicist
In April 1973 I walked into the amazing house in King’s Cross that was Time Out magazine. For the following 30 years I worked on and off for Time Out weekly, i-D magazine and Kids Out. Tony did not interview me. I was employed as the ‘Ad girl’. Two weeks after I walked thru that door we had an all-staff meeting. I nestled at the back of the room observing when suddenly Tony said ‘I would like to welcome Irene Campbell to the fold’. He knew who I was! He remained one of the most important people in my life. Concerned when life took bad turns and guided me through difficult times. Always there. Two weeks prior to his death I delivered a box of Krispy Cream doughnuts to his house in Primrose Hill. The doughnuts were a gift from myself and three others who are to this day close friends. We met at Time Out. We knew Tony liked doughnuts. He replied by email to us all saying they were well received and he was looking forward to a sweet treat. A true friend. One I will miss.
Irene Campbell worked at Time Out
Geoffrey Robertson QC
The ’70s were an oppressive time for the ‘alternative’ press. Two Time Out journalists – Crispin Aubrey and Duncan Campbell – faced many years in prison under the Official Secrets Act in the ‘ABC’ trial, in which I defended Duncan. Later, I defended Time Out editor David May, also charged with Official Secrets for a Time Out story; the police raided Time Out’s offices. Tony stood up to the state, and his courage in doing so deterred further raids. My last case defending Time Out – about which Tony was just as passionate – was when some benighted authority prosecuted the magazine for publishing the frequency details of unlicensed radio stations!
Geoffrey Robertson QC
Tony Elliott changed my life. Of course, he changed a lot of people’s lives simply by publishing Time Out and opening their eyes to all that London had to offer. But I was one of those who knew him, and adored him, because in 1976 he gave me the job of editorial assistant at TO. Mike Hardwick, then ad director, told me later he wasn’t keen but Tony was insistent. He had a gut feeling about me – who knows why – and generously wanted to give me a chance. Apparently, he often trusted his instincts like this, so was a catalyst for many careers and ventures.
On my first day at the King’s Cross office he told me to research snooker halls for a feature. ‘I don’t care how you do it!’ he snapped before telling me exactly how to do it and reminding me I must include things such as opening hours, the phone number and the nearest tube station. That was so typical of him, a stickler for details.
In 1978 TO was celebrating its tenth birthday with a big bash at the Lyceum. Sidekicks – a company I started with fellow Time Outer Irene Campbell – helped organise it. Tony had reluctantly been persuaded to walk on stage mid-party to cut the celebratory cake and we thought it would be a real laugh to get a Queen lookalike (Jeannette Charles) to make an appearance with him even though we knew he hated being the centre of attention. So we didn’t tell him. We zipped Jeannette into her finery at the nearby Strand Palace Hotel and accompanied her to the venue (I swear the tourists thought it really was HRH popping out for some fags). It took Tony a minute to realise the roars of delight weren’t only for him but for the ‘Queen’, who had walked on behind him and was greeting the crowds with a royal wave. He took it in good part, bless him.
Thank you, Tony, for believing in me, for introducing me to so many people who are still my closest friends and giving me some of the best experiences of my working life.
Jane Rackham, Time Out 1975-78
I first met Tony in 1977. I’d just joined a band called the Attractions, and moved in with a young lady called Suzanne – the girl at Stiff Records who answered the phone when I first rang for the audition. I moved in with her and (for a time) her housemate, Val Boyd. Val was Tony’s girlfriend, so I soon got to know him. Eventually, things moved on, and Tony got together with his future wife, Janey. Over the years, the common thread through everything I recall about him is what a kind, generous, engaging and gracious man he was.
Bruce Thomas, musician, formerly with Elvis Costello And The Attractions
Shopping and striking: the 1980s
In 1981, Tony’s efforts to change the magazine’s equal-pay structure led to a strike, during which staff occupied the magazine’s office. During a tense stand-off Tony made himself unpopular by blasting The Beach Boys at top volume to break the strikers’ morale. Eventually, 42 members of staff quit to found a rival magazine, City Limits and Richard Branson launched his own (shortlived) Time Out competitor, Event.
Tony relaunched Time Out in the autumn of 1981. Out went ‘Agitprop’ and in came a new focus on shops, restaurants and nightlife. ‘We wanted to reflect the fact that the spectrum of London life had evolved,’ he explained later. Time Out thrived, evolving just as London’s cultural landscape did. With the arrival of Channel 4, Time Out ran full TV listings for the first time but the move was immediately injuncted. So began
Tony’s nine-year battle to break the monopoly on TV listings. His success was one of his proudest achievements.
Celebrating the capital’s growing dining scene, he published the first Eating & Drinking Guide to London which eventually gave rise to the prestigious Eating & Drinking Awards. Tony bought a 50 percent stake in i-D magazine in 1985 and established a city guide series. Paris Passion (later to become Time Out Paris) was his first foray into other great city guides that eventually covered more than 40 destinations.
But this was also the decade when Tony himself won his own battles over drinking (and smoking). In June 1989 he married Janey, who he’d met while working with designer Pearce Marchbank in the 1970s, and together they have raised three sons – Rufus (born April 1988) and twins
Bruce and Lawrence (born October 1990).
Many years ago, I foolishly decided to set up a competitor magazine in London called Event. Tony competed brilliantly and we had to retire with our tail between our legs. Despite that, Tony and I remained good friends – perhaps helped by him marrying one of my closest friends, Janey. He would never miss a birthday and would always write a lovely note.
Richard Branson, Virgin Group
Tony changed my life when he took a punt on an unknown hack and hired me as one of the scab editors post-strike – a role which, in my dotage, I now realise was arguably the best job I ever had. During those years, despite the endless rolling battle we fought about listings versus articles (no prizes for guessing which side he was on), I came to greatly admire Tony as that rarity: a truly honourable man. He was not afraid to risk everything – even the loss of the entire magazine – to defend the principles in which he believed.
Don Atyeo, former editor of Time Out London
I knew Tony from the underground press scene in London around 1970. I was a wandering freelancer anyway, and this qualified me, when I hit a patch of celebrity journalism at the beginning of the 1980s, for Tony to fly me off to some cracking destinations. So, it was William Burroughs in Kansas, Johnny Rotten in New York and Mick Jagger in Paris. Tony said, ‘I hope you don’t mind but I’d like to come with you to see Mick. I’m a real fan.’ We flew to Paris in time for the interview which was scheduled for midday, ‘after Mick has had his breakfast’, the PR guy said. Eventually we were summoned into the presence at 5pm. Tony shook hands with Mick in a kind of hot vertigo – he never lost that boyish starstruck side, which stood him in good stead with a youth-orientated magazine. He remained quiet during the interview – he never lost that professional side either. Afterwards, I slumped and was looking forward to dinner and crashing out in front of some French telly. But Tony said, ‘If we’re quick, we can catch the last plane back to London.’ He never lost that business side. I’ve worked for a number of darling editors in my time. They are very rare. Tony was one of them.
Duncan Fallowell, journalist
A Craig Copetas
Anyone who knew Tony well will tell you he was a kind and generous friend, and as stubborn as an old goat. I forget the exact year, sometime during the early 1980s, but the event took place during an ugly labour strike at Time Out. I was stationed in Moscow, had returned to London for a break and walked into the empty Time Out office in Covent Garden. Tony was sitting there all alone, tightly strung by the chaos. At the time, it looked as if Time Out would go out of business. Tony needed to get out of the UK for some decompression, but he would not budge and exploded at anyone who suggested he take a break from the business at hand. I was scheduled to head to Cairo on a story in a week's time. So I told Tony to pack a bag and the both of us could leave the following morning, meet up with some colleagues in Cairo and head out into the desert on horseback for a few days. Tony exploded. ‘I’m not going anywhere,’ he said. I set his wastebasket on fire.
We flew out of Heathrow the next morning, Tony grumbling the entire trip. Along with the American author and Middle East specialist James Horwitz, we headed to the MG Stables in Giza, wrapped scarves around our heads and galloped into the desert. Tony was still a nervous wreck, obsessed with talking about the tumult in London; Horwitz and I had never seen him so morose. Our first destination was the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, a unique and crumbling structure in that at the time there was an internal chute visitors could slide down. But few ventured that far out back in those days. Tony somehow got stuck in the carved stone trough. Horwitz and I asked our Bedouin guide how long Tony would last without food and water.
‘Okay, Tony, he says you’ve got maybe three days. You either forget about Time Out or we leave you here.’
Tony was beet-red furious.
‘But you must give him water,’ our Bedouin guide said, playing along.
‘Nope. Just a pen and some paper. He can write a frigging guide book.’
‘Yeah,’ Horwiz said, ‘“The Seven Pillars of Time Out”.’
I’ll never forget Tony’s laughter. It was infectious belly laughter and, for the remainder of the week, he never once mentioned Time Out. But Tony – of course – gleefully assumed managerial control of our daily expeditions into the desert.
A Craig Copetas, journalist
I met Tony on my first day of work after art college, which also happened to be the first day of Time Out magazine production after the strike. I stayed for nearly ten years, and I’ve kept the collection of memos he typed to me over that time, many of them with the centres of the O’s and zeros knocked out, such was the passion with which he typed. He wanted the magazine to be the very best it could be, and if a robust argument was needed to get people to share his vision, he could do that too.
Simon Gunn, former Time Out art director
Tony was never ideological, a decisive factor (I suspect) in why he split so completely with his fiercely radicalised editorial staff over equal pay. The editorial ethos of the relaunched magazine was entirely post-modern: we still had the fig leaf of Agitprop listing demos and protests, but the outlook was more attracted to the hip, the outrageous, the extraordinary, the counterculture – in a way that is now adopted by the mainstream media, but then was starkly absent. The new freedom opened up the way to the hiring an extraordinary array of editorial talent: John Diamond, Julie Burchill, Alexei Sayle and Lindsey Bareham all cut their teeth under Tony’s stewardship.
Paul Charman, former Time Out news editor
Tricia and Terry Jones
Tony brought a financial structure and business plan to a couple of creative hippies who originally had no plans to own a magazine at all! Steered by him, yearly budgets (that had to be passed by Time Out's financial team) and monthly management meetings became a part of our lives and allowed i-D to flourish and grow over the years. At the beginning, Tony owned 51 percent to our 49 percent shares, but he never once challenged or changed Terry’s choice of cover or the creative decisions he would take. This creative freedom, within our business partnership, was always something we hugely valued.
It was only at the beginning of the 2000s that we felt confident and grown-up enough to offer to buy back the crucial 1 percent or 2 percent – when Tony, with huge generosity, offered to give them to us – if we could achieve a number of financial goals he would set. Two years later, Tony, ever a man of his word, signed over the crucial 2 percent with no cost to us.
As a business partner and a very close personal friend, we love you, Tony, and will always miss you. Forever grateful! xx T&T
Tricia and Terry Jones, i-D magazine
Tony was a generous gentle soul who throughout his life supported and encouraged his fellow humanity. He was wonderfully supportive of my Alternative Miss World Events and even put Miss Frozen Assets on the cover of Time Out [in 1985]. I was privileged to know him. Thank you.
Andrew Logan, artist and founder of Alternative Miss World
I first met Tony in 1984, as he was about to go into partnership with Terry Jones at i-D. I think it’s fair to say that without Tony’s support – not least financial – the future for the magazine would have been difficult. We soon discovered that Tony was a whip-smart entrepreneurial boss, a benevolent leader whose managerial style was fascinating to watch. Why? Because while he rarely questioned creative decisions, he was almost fanatical about process, analysing every aspect of the supply chain.
I loved working with him, for him, and soon began to call him a friend. He started inviting me to his and Janey’s house in France, and we holidayed together for many years.
I left i-D in 1987, but we stayed in close contact, as we both enjoyed the swirl of gossip that enveloped our industry. Tony was an incredibly funny man, and he always – always – had a unique take on whatever topic was leading the news agenda. He was also extremely good at arguing, largely because he always felt he was right; watching him spar with Felix Dennis was something I would have gladly paid money to see. They had the ability to shout and scream at each other for hours on end, and then hug each other and burst out laughing.
Personally and professionally, Tony taught me a lot, but this only happened because I liked him as well as respected him. He was difficult to dislike – in fact, thinking about this right now, in the 40 years I knew him, I can’t recall anyone important who did. I was around when some of the more militant Time Out employees sloped off to launch City Limits, and for a while this new rival was quite fashionable – largely due to its covers, designed by Neville Brody – but Tony’s tenacity and resolve simply made him work harder at making Time Out an even better magazine.
I think if I had to isolate one particular thing about Tony it would be his enthusiasm – for ideas, for people, for anything that sparked his interest. In this respect, he was a brilliant combination of journalist and entrepreneur, a man who was always encouraging others to pursue their dreams.
Just like he did.
Dylan Jones, editor GQ
I first contacted Tony by phone back in 1986, a few months after a group of us had launched The List magazine, the events guide for Glasgow and Edinburgh. We had a talented team but were struggling at that time to master the practicalities of how to organise ourselves and how to generate the revenue we needed. Tony’s first reaction was to laugh when I summarised our problems but, when I sent him some copies, he changed and began to look for ways to help us. He invited me down to join in one of the legendary lunches they held in the Time Out offices where they hosted all the London film promoters. The lunch went on through the afternoon and well into the evening and Tony made sure that I was introduced to all the major players, and many of them went on to allocate significant parts of their budgets to The List. Thanks to Tony’s help at a crucial time, we began to work out how to run a magazine and to prosper.
Robin Hodge, The List
Mark Stephens CBE
I first met Tony under the big top of a circus tent on Clapham Common at one of the early – and now infamous – Time Out Christmas Parties.
We bonded over a shared roguish sense of fun, justice, and the arts. Tony had a wonderful moral compass guided by an ethical view of the world – something that ran counter to the orthodoxy of greed in Thatcher’s Britain. His piratical approach to the world was always inspired by the touchstone of justice.
Tony taught me much about a values-driven approach to business and the world. There is now a gaping hole in my life and I miss him
Tony Elliott was a ray of sunshine in London. I was making movies and became to know Tony during the filming of ‘The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle’, which developed into a great friendship and affection. His attitudes to culture and freedom with innovation changed the map! Tony deserved many covers of Time Out. Missing our good pal.
Jeremy Thomas, film producer
Rose Fenton and Lucy Neal
Our hearts go out to you and your family during these sad times. We feel so lucky to have known and worked with Tony over the years. He was a wonderfully generous, enthusiastic, ever-youthful man who inspired so many and was so important in forging the spirit of our London and times. With Tony so much was possible.
We shall never forget our first meeting with Tony in 1980. We had left university with the idea of setting up an International theatre festival in London. As we visited theatres, producers, funding bodies and foundations at almost at every turn we met with resistance. ‘I don’t want to pour cold water on this,’ the sentence would begin, ‘BUT who wants to see international theatre when British theatre is the best in the world?’ or, ‘We won’t be able to understand a word, so what’s the point’ or even ‘A festival in August? Nobody goes to the theatre then, they are all on holiday.’
Tony’s reaction was the polar opposite. We had written to him explaining our idea for LIFT – ‘a window on the world for London through a young generation of experimental alternative theatre-makers internationally’. We were trying to raise money for research visits to European experimental theatre festivals that summer – in particular to the famous Festival of Fools taking place that summer in Amsterdam’s docklands.
Erlangen in Germany and Avignon in France. We’d been to the Konfraontaje Festival in Lublin, Poland that spring and knew there was really good work to see to bring to the Festival. Would he help? Tony invited us to the Time Out offices where he quizzed us very intensely along with the Theatre department, headed up by Theatre editor, Anne McFerran. The next day we received a letter from Tony. Not only would Time Out give us our modest travel expenses but also £500, a huge amount in those days ‘towards stamps, phone bills and other office expenditure, which I am sure you could do with’. We couldn’t believe it – unasked for largesse! And incredibly thoughtful. More than that – and equally important in terms of building LIFT’s reputation and audiences – we had won the confidence of Time Out’s influential Theatre department. [They] believed in us.
Time Out became one of LIFT’s champions, welcoming the first Festival as a much-needed antidote to the largely insular British theatre scene and reviewing every show we presented that summer in 1981, including contemporary theatre from Brazil, Peru, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany, France, Japan and Malaysia.
Tony’s support was vital, and much-needed wind in our sails at that crucial moment when everything hung in the balance. Interestingly – and greatly to our annoyance each time – whenever we asked for further financial sponsorship over the following years Tony would refuse, saying that he felt his resources were better used supporting start-up ventures, like LIFT in the very early days. And he was right!
Forty years later LIFT continues to thrive and international theatre visits and collaborations are very much part of Britain’s theatre culture.
Thank you, Tony, for believing in us. We will miss you so much.
Rose Fenton and Lucy Neal, founders, LIFT – London International Festival of Theatre
The 1990s: New York and London
In the 1990s, Tony’s time was split between London and New York. ‘Tony loved New York and helped establish Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine in the UK,’ the city in 1973, he had nursed an ambition to launch Time Out New York. TONY finally arrived in September 1995 and was an almost overnight success.
The entire London team was flown over for the launch and at the party Tony was half-host, half-Time Out guidebook, mixing with NYC’s cultural big hitters and recommending sights and experiences to the visiting Londoners.
‘Everyone will tell you Tony was a Peter Pan figure,’ says former Time Out London editor Dominic Wells. ‘He never looked older than 40. But it wasn’t just his appearance: it was his undimmed curiosity, his boyish enthusiasm for new ideas, new sounds, new films, new art, new people, that kept him young.’
When London became the capital of Cool Britannia, the city’s renaissance extended beyond music, film and Michelin-starred restaurants. YBAs like Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were challenging the art establishment and Tony was a passionate supporter. He didn’t just sit on art institution boards for the kudos, he was proactive.
He ensured Time Out was fully behind the landmark, controversial ‘Sensation’ exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1997, and he was a founder of the Roundhouse Trust. ‘He believed in the plans before nearly anyone else,’ says its chief executive and artistic director, Marcus Davey. ‘He was deeply involved from 1998 right up until his untimely death. He came to all the different gigs, circus shows, theatre and poetry performances; he never missed a board or sub-committee meeting.’
Without Tony, there would be no Dazed & Confused. I first met Tony when I interned at Time Out in 1990. He was the godfather of the independent press in the UK as he had built the largest indie distribution in the biz and he gave us our first deal, an advance against sales which meant we could officially set ourselves up. It was such a closed game back then, so to have that was like a golden ticket.
Thanks, Tony, you are a towering legend who paved the way for all us indie publishers!
Jefferson Hack, Dazed & Confused
I knew Tony Elliott for three-and-a-half decades. He seemed to know just about everyone of importance or influence in the cultural life of London. Still more remarkable was the fact that this never manifested itself in terms of name-dropping. You would usually only find out by accident that he knew someone, unless you needed help in some matter, in which case he might offer to put you in touch. He appeared to treat everybody in much the same friendly, curious manner, regardless of how well known (or not) they might be, and even when our opinions differed, he was never dismissive of mine. He had a lot of respect for the specialist knowledge of his staff.
Geoff Andrew, former Time Out London film editor
Tony was part of the ICA board that offered me a part-time job as ‘Rock Week programmer’ in 1981. This was relatively uncharted territory for the ICA back then and I recall Tony being particularly excited that not only would this bring a new young audience into the building but it was likely to boost bar profits. He'd even heard of some of the bands I liked and lined up a meeting with Time Out’s Music editor John Gill who was equally supportive.
Ten years later, James Lingwood and I joined forces to run Artangel and Tony took a keen interest in the way we looked at London as a series of unexpected sites with the potential to be transformed by the ideas of exceptional artists. By this time, we’d become friends. Tony was ever-curious about what we were planning and always generous with his time and connections. He and Janey also spread their wings as long-standing Angels, helping to make it possible for our projects to fly.
Michael Morris, co-director, Artangel
Tony was a hard man to please. I learned this early when, a few weeks into being acting editor and desperate to earn the full-time gig, I showed him a cover I had sweated blood on. It was Michelle Pfeiffer in her leather Catwoman suit, and I had personally flown to LA to interview her and Tim Burton over the weekend, written it up on the plane, and delivered the copy on Monday morning to hit the newsstands on Tuesday morning – all to scoop Empire magazine, who were furious. Tony looked at the cover and said, simply: ‘Is the logo a little too far to the right?’
Dominic Wells, former Time Out London editor
When I was first hired to raise funds for the launch of Time Out New York, Tony asked me to come to London for a week to get indoctrinated into the Time Out culture: the only time in my 30-year career that a client insisted I spend that much time getting to know their brand. After we secured investors, Tony was tenacious in reaching an agreement that would protect him and the brand. He held out during tough negotiations with seasoned dealmakers, and by the time the agreement was signed, all of us were exhausted – except Tony.
Reed Phillips, Oaklins DeSilva+Phillips
Tony was a massive advocate of technology, and I had many discussions with him about it in airport lounges as we were launching in New York. Time Out ventured into the world of the internet very early on, with literally one person sitting there putting content on web pages. We also had very early ideas for pushing Time Out content to people’s mobile phones based on location and preferences. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough money to push at the time, but it would have been years ahead of any other publisher out there.
Simon Chappell, group IT director at Time Out
When we launched Time Out New York on September 27, 1995, few thought we had a prayer against the Village Voice, New York magazine, The New York Times and the rest. But Tony always had a stubborn, almost naive faith that his patented listings formula would work. In my opinion, he was medialand’s first information architect, anticipating the data structure of a zillion websites to follow. Beyond his adored family, Tony’s human legacy is the talent Time Out attracted: a global tribe that has stayed connected over decades and includes dozens of names the world now knows.
Cyndi Stivers, former Time Out New York editor
One thing that I always enjoyed was seeing, on my trips to New York, a vast sign spelling out TONY – on the end of a building somewhere around Astor Place. Of course, it equalled ‘Time Out New York’. But we knew… And I always thought: Well done, you.
Jonathon Green, writer and lexicographer
Now Tony is gone, I am the only surviving, original member of the Human Rights Watch London Committee. We used to try to remember the exact date of our first committee meeting but I don’t think we ever nailed it accurately. It must have been around 1995. We had met before – in my previous life, I was married to a musician and had crossed paths with Tony and Janey on a couple of occasions.
But it was through HRW that I came to know Tony for the extraordinary person he was. He chaired, motivated and expanded the London committee for many years and, once the HRW London Film Festival began, he created the Film Benefit Subcommittee which I was asked to chair. We often held committee meetings at Time Out, Tottenham Court Road. Needless to say, he was inspirational. His constant flow of ideas, his drive, his thinking outside the box, his impatience to get things done were the stimuli which powered everyone to share in his vision and to do their damnedest to fulfil it. He was the go-to person for any hitch in the proceedings. An obstacle was a red rag to a bull; he relished it. I still have some of the dozens of emails he fired off on a daily basis re any problem to be solved. And this was just a small part of the huge demands on the rest of his working life.
Jenny Dearden, Human Rights Watch
John T Cabell
Tony was my best friend ‘in business’ and one of my best friends in life.
I first met him at an American Magazine Conference in Orlando in 1993? At that time, I was the Director of International Development for Rodale and the conference hosted foreign members of the MPA (the American magazine industry trade association). A group of us international members had dinner together, and as could be expected from media owners and executives at such a conference, there was the usual bit of posturing and showmanship during the course of the meal. Tony immediately distinguished himself with his good nature, affability and humility while in no way diminishing his stature within the group.
Tony and I stayed in touch over the next few years. In 1997, I started my practice, Cue Ball, to help media groups from all over the world develop their businesses internationally. Time Out was our third client. By then, Tony had launched Time Out New York (1995), and he also had a Paris-based business at the time. Though Time Out was intrinsically a ‘local’ brand, Tony had a clear vision to replicate his concept in as many parts of the world as possible. Tony trusted us (Mike Greehan and me) to help him realise his vision. We ended up working with Tony for 15 or so wonderful years (our longest engagement with any client).
John T Cabell, Founder & CEO, Cue Ball, LLC
Tony was a founder trustee of the Roundhouse Trust. He believed in the plans before nearly anyone else, and he was deeply involved from 1998 right up until his untimely death. He came to all the different gigs, circus shows, theatre and poetry performances; he never missed a board or sub-committee meeting; and he championed and loved our work with young people and emerging artists. Until Time Out became free, he would always turn up to meetings with about five copies of the magazine in his bag to hand out to people. Proud of every page, he would delight in feedback and suggestions. I think he is the most curious person I have ever me: he was interested in everything and willing to try things out even if he had a preconceived idea that he would not like what he was seeing or hearing. He raised money and gave money; he introduced people to the Roundhouse and advocated for us as an ambassador would for his/her country; he attended events and challenged ideas; and he was a friend to us, remembering our birthdays, inviting us out to see other shows and always recommending places to eat. We held many fundraising events at Tony and Janey’s house. I was lucky to tell Tony, just a few weeks before he died, that we couldn’t have rebuilt the Roundhouse without him, that we all admired him and that we loved him. To this day, if you look at the back of our toilet cubicle doors, you will read the words: “Time Out is flushed with pride to sponsor these toilets.” Tony had a great sense of humour.
Marcus Davey, chief executive and artistic director, Roundhouse
I have hundreds of memories of Tony but the one that sticks most is the first ever international trip we did together.
It was to New York. He’d spent forever explaining to me how valet parking worked at the Airport in terms of where you drop the car off. I got completely lost as I have zero sense of direction and we almost missed the flight! He gallantly waited for me but was pretty frosty until it transpired that someone in his old college mate’s office (Richard Branson) had bumped us up to business class. That lightened the mood measurably. When we got to The Gramercy Park Hotel I was shocked that Tony came into my room before checking into his - he marched straight into my bathroom, nodded appreciatively and marched out again. He was merely checking that his request of double towels for me had been followed through. He cared about every last detail and I love that, and now I do too!
I loved Tony and miss him dearly.
Christine Cort, former Time Out marketing director
The 2000s: Expansion and recession
Tony drove Time Out’s close relationship with Tate Modern from building site to its opening in May 2000, and continued to support the Roundhouse, including Time Out’s campaign for 360 donors to sponsor one degree of the building’s circumference.
He started to agree franchise deals for magazines around the world that would, by 2010, include over 30 more Time Out titles. Deniz and Turgay Huysal approached Tony seeking a license for Time Out in Istanbul. ‘His fondness for Franklin Gothic, his absolute punctuality, his personal TO archive were all things of legend,’ says Deniz. ‘Yet he was willing to trust us immediately.’
Istanbul hosted the Time Out international Conference in 2004. ‘Of course everyone wanted to meet Tony. Years later he showed me pictures he had taken. They surprised me with their warmth and intimacy. They were not photos of a business gathering but of a family affair.’
Tony was also known for his exacting standards. Many editors can tell stories of busting a gut over a cover exclusive only to have Tony complain the logo was a millimetre out. But he would also defend his teams. If an advertiser threatened to pull ads over a bad review, the review would stand and the financial hit was shrugged off. And in 2008, he took on the BBC at Edinburgh TV Festival, for its £75m acquisition of the travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, determined to take his argument direct to parliament.
As Time Out’s international presence expanded, our partner-licensees around the world all hoped for a visit from Tony. He was passionate about getting to know new cities and open to new experiences: exploring Beijing’s 798 art district, accidentally attending an S&M fashion show at La Cigale in Buenos Aires or riding into the Time Out Delhi launch party astride an elephant! He could tell you about a particular Szechuan dish from Shanghai, a specific stall in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. And a passing comment about how I liked certain kinds of hotel pens ensured me a life’s supply, silently deposited on my desk every time he returned from a trip.’
Cathy Runciman, former MD at Time Out International
On September 11 2001, I was en route to the Time Out New York offices when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. By the time I made it to the office at Broadway & Houston, the second plane hit. Tony was in his room at the Gramercy Hotel and he didn't have the TV on when I called him. He walked over to lower Broadway and we met outside the office, and all the people covered in white dust were running north in their stockinged feet, carrying briefcases. It was like a sci-fi horror film that we stood watching together, speechless.
Alison Tocci, publisher at Time Out North America
Companies inevitably resemble their creators, and Time Out and Tony were no exception. I remember visiting him in his office and he wanted to know how I got there? How long it took? What movie I'd seen recently? Was the new sandwich shop on the corner any good? Where were we going to lunch? And he was interested in the answers, and he told me about what he’d seen and done, and then, when we went to lunch, he asked the waitress where the prawns came from and where she’d got her tattoo. He was curious and generous and he gave us all a piece of that.
Lucy Sisman, art director
I was the publisher/MD of the magazine from 2008 to 2012 during a very tricky time for the business. It was a period of cost-cutting and uncertainty as Tony reached out to investors and we traded through the recession. He was determined to maintain the brand’s credibility through rigorous quality-control (often, if honest, to the frustration of those trying to resource it for him with ever-dwindling options). Tony could spend money, for sure, but it was never about the money for him. That alone set him apart from most other media owners I have worked for and with. The day-to-day effort of squaring his vision with the stubborn reality of modern-day media business was among the greatest of his gifts. Everyone always tried to rise to his challenge. It mattered to him and so it mattered to us.
Mark Elliott, former publisher/MD at Time Out London
Tony called me when he was licensing Time Out in China to a Beijing friend of mine, Hung Huang. I wasn’t able to help much, but later I introduced Tony to executives from Li Ka Shing, the richest guy in Asia. He wanted to take equity in Time Out. Tony could not – could he ever? – let it go. He would never speak of himself in such grandiloquent terms, but he really had a global vision.
Philip Dodd, founder at Made in China
When I was hired to launch Time Out Chicago, I had been a fan of the magazines and guides for years, so Tony was a giant in my mind. Lucky for me, he was a kind, inspiring, generous human being and boss. Tony believed that the Chicago magazine should find its own identity and gave us plenty of leash to create something authentic and unique. When we came up short on ad pages or risked p******* off someone important, we were never made to skimp on listings or pull punches editorially. For Tony, the quality and integrity of the magazine were more important.
Chad Schlegel, former editor at Time Out Chicago
At the Edinburgh TV Festival in 2008, Tony and I shared a platform, united by our opposition to what we say as the aggressive approach of the BBC’s commercial arm. BBC Worldwide had just bought Lonely Planet and Tony felt they were parking their tanks on his listings lawn. I prided myself on being a bit of a thorn in the side of the BBC, but that day, I met my match. I could only sit back and admire Tony as he, smiling and polite as ever, eviscerated the hapless BBC Worldwide spokesperson.
Alex Graham, TV producer
I met Tony through his involvement on the London Committee of Human Rights Watch and the two of us went on to serve on that organization’s global board of directors. I grew very fond of Tony for all sorts of reasons. One of the reasons is that I learned so much from the guy all the time about the stuff that really mattered. He knew how to connect left-brained legalistic minds with right-brained creative artistic minds. He loved to speak truth to power and to help others do the same, which made him such a terrific ally for anyone trying to change things.
Hassan Elmasry, Human Rights Watch
Tony and I met through our common passion – human rights. When Human Rights Watch was internationalising we were invited to join the board of the organisation to help spread the family beyond its American boundaries. Tony did a fabulous job on HRW’s UK presence and I, being Norwegian, worked on Norway.
Tony was a visionary – he connected Human Rights to the arts and was very passionate and helpful with its theatre outreach through Cries from the Heart at London’s Royal Court Theatre. With his enormous network, he generously shared and helped in every way – he was also hugely driven to educate the next generation.
Tony had a very creative artistic temperament, and I am an artist. Often we saw things the same way but struggled to persuade people of our ideas. In the process, we had many laughs as he always brought good humour with his boyish, charming ways.
When you see today where the organisation is – many of Tony’s ideas are now in progress. I am still on the board and witnessing this: his
passion and views paid off. Tony and I were never close, but we were friends and good team-mates on the HRW board. I will truly miss this great generous man.
Siri Stolt-Nielsen, Human Rights Watch
When I joined the Roundhouse board, I spoke to all the trustees about the worst and best thing that could happen over the next decade. Tony gave the most memorable answer: ‘Don’t let it become middle-class.’ There was always a streak of rebelliousness in him and that’s why he loved the Roundhouse: it’s a place where new things happen, where underdogs are prized and risks are taken. He was a perfect champion for its work.
Chris Satterthwaite, the Roundhouse
We met Tony in 2000 to talk him into giving us a licence to publish Time Out in Istanbul. Everyone knew how possessive he was of his creation and how particular about everything pertaining to Time Out in general. His fondness for Franklin Gothic, his insistence on absolute punctuality, his bookkeeping on his personal TO archive were all things of legend even from afar. Yet we were very surprised and happy to see that he was willing to trust us with his title immediately. Not only with the magazine itself but with all of the decisions relating to it. When we insisted that the Istanbul magazine needed to be a monthly rather than a weekly he simply said, 'I defer to you on all these decisions as you know what will work best for your city.’ We were pleasantly surprised as we were led to believe that this would be a deal-breaker for him.
Time Out Istanbul was the first International license and when Tony first started giving licences to publish in unexpected cities everyone must have thought that this was a silly and risky idea. Soon, of course, other publishers realised this was the next frontier for them.
As of that first meeting, every time we were in London he and his wife Janey would invite me and my family over for a Sunday lunch at home. Their boys would be present and Janey would cook. Even for the nine of us, Tony would have a seating plan ready in hand that he had drawn up earlier.
So when it was decided that we would organise the first official Time Out International conference in Istanbul in the summer of 2004 I knew that this was something I had to factor into the list of things I had to do. The world was a better place then and the media was a more affluent, profitable industry. The licences had mushroomed over the course of the two years since we started Time Out Istanbul. There were around 80 people attending and we had planned many festivities. Licensees had travelled from as far away as Mexico and New Zealand to be present. There were the first comers like Greece and Dubai as well as the new editions from Shanghai, Mumbai, Moscow et al present. We had incredible entertainment planned for the conference. For the main event I even got the Topkapi Palace to open for our guests after hours and have dinner to follow in the garden of the nearby Istanbul Archeological Museum. The London team was present in great numbers and Cathy Runciman – head of international at the time had travelled earlier to organise the three-day get-together with me. The seating arrangement was my job. I found this challenging as I knew that this was of particular interest to Tony and also because the numbers for the dinners varied from 25 to 125 throughout the event. We started with the family dinner of 25 at a seaside fish restaurant along the Bosphorus and finished with a big dinner and party at a rooftop restaurant where we also invited local luminaries into the mix. Of course, everyone wanted to meet the illustrious Tony Elliott. As I expected, the first thing Tony would ask at every dinner was: ‘Where do I sit? Is there a seating chart?’ By the time the conference was over I was one nervous mess with the pressure of having to create the perfect arrangements.
He sent me the loveliest mail afterwards, though, saying that the event had exceeded his expectations and he was very happy we had done it in Istanbul. He also added that he was very happy that he went ahead and granted licences to his cherished magazine. Years later he showed me pictures he had taken at that event. They surprised me with their warmth and intimacy. They were not pictures of a business gathering but of a family affair.
During the course of our friendship, he came to visit us and Istanbul many times. Mostly with Janey. He loved the energy of the city and I guess the fact that it was filled with unexpected things. Some of the changes of the last decade troubled him greatly. Still, he remained a staunch advocate of Istanbul. When Time Out Paris was launched in 2010 he very famously said to Le Figaro that if he had a chance to travel to a city right now he’d rather go to Istanbul every time than come to Paris! As you can imagine that did not go down well in Paris but I can tell you that we were very pleased.
He had always been very interested and curious in different places, cultures and people. And I think this new chapter in his life of international licences starting in 2001 satisfied him in many ways. He never tired of travelling to support and to celebrate his licensees in the following decades. And I think he also became friends with many of them. Both my husband and I certainly counted him as one of our most valued, close friends, as do my children who were six and three when they first met him. He remained very present in their lives throughout the 20 years of our friendship. He remembered to include them in everything from getting them passes to the Somerset House ice rink to inviting them to special screenings, exhibition openings as well as introducing them to people who he thought may be important for their future. He was always there to advise and listen.
His passing marks the end of a delightful, inspiring albeit sadly cut-short period in all our lives. All because he – at the tender age of 21 – could create something that could be perfectly adapted in cities that did not even share an alphabet nor a continent, that were so very disparate from each other. And yet the formula worked in all of them without needing major changes. Its contribution to the social and cultural lives of the cities it reached and its people remains unparalleled.
Denis Huysal, publisher, Time Out Istanbul
Tony interviewed me for my job at Human Rights Watch back in 2004. At that time, he was the chair of the London committee and I was applying to become the London director of HRW. The interview took place in the iconic Tottenham Court Road offices of Time Out. We worked together very closely for the next decade or so. He introduced me to the concept of a big vision, of a big horizon – and he showed me that by putting diverse people together, by creating unusual partnerships and listening, learning and believing, anything was possible.
He was so generous with his friends and contacts, introducing me to anyone and everyone who could add a piece to the puzzle and propel us forward. One minute I was just a fundraiser, the next, under his encouragement, I became a casting director, a scriptwriter, a theatre producer. Together, we worked on a theatre event called ‘Cries from the Heart’. Through Tony’s introductions, we brought together an array of much-loved, well-established acting talent, including Patrick Stewart, Juliet Stevenson, John Hurt, Judi Dench and Julie Christie, as well as creative forces such as Patti Smith, Sophie Okonedo and Lemn Sissay. With minimal writing and rehearsal time, this ambitious project could have been a disaster, but under Tony’s guidance – and through the talent of our outstanding performers – we pulled off ovations in three successive years at the Royal Court, the Globe and the Theatre Royal Haymarket. This, in turn, led to great press coverage, which was Tony’s main intention. He always had an acute eye for the bigger picture.
Laura Boardman, managing director, development & outreach, Human Rights Watch
The 2010s: New beginnings
By the turn of the decade, the 2008 recession had left Tony’s company financially stretched and risking irrelevance, as Google and the internet massively serviced search for information, and the paying audience for its print magazines grew smaller, older and whiter – unlike the cities and culture it had always championed. Tony quietly remortgaged his house to keep it afloat, and sought investment, but not at any price. It had to be the right partner, consistent with the fierce independence which was in his and now Time Out’s DNA.
‘He had the entrepreneurial gene,’ recalls long-term friend Alan Yentob. ‘As time moved on, Tony liked to recall that the beguiling options facing him in his teenage years were “free love or commerce” and he opted for the latter. But Tony wasn’t in it for the money or personal gain. He was profoundly principled and over the years turned down offers which may have made him rich but could compromise him.’
In 2010 Oakley Capital took a controlling stake in the company. Digital expansion followed, taking expert curation, or ‘the information about the information’ out to where the audience was now looking for it. In 2012, the London magazine went free, giving the inside angle on city culture to a vastly bigger, younger London audience and winning numerous awards in the process. ‘There was a misconception that Tony did not like change,’ says former Time Out editor-in-chief and then CEO, Tim Arthur. ‘But he loved it when it was done well.’
In Lisbon, an even more significant change was afoot: an ambitious project to bring Time Out editors’ curation to life in a seafront marketplace, to be transformed into a food hall bringing the city’s hottest culinary talent under one roof. ‘That sunny day in Lisbon, May 18 2014, was long and special for both of us,’ recalls João Cepeda, driving force behind the Lisbon market. ‘Tony knew all about the project, and supported it from day one. “I have to say…,” he told me, “I never thought you would do it.”’ Five years later, the Lisbon market would be Portugal’s biggest tourist attraction, with new markets in Montreal, New York, Miami, Chicago and Boston.
In 2016 Time Out launched on the stock exchange, valued at £150 million. Tony was no longer directly involved in management but remained vocal and passionate, as a supporter of Human Rights Watch, Create East, the Roundhouse and cultural talent everywhere; as a board member and as Time Out’s most diligent and exacting reader. Woe betide the listings editor who made a tiny error: a soft-voiced telling off or sternly worded email would promptly follow. Up until his final days, Tony’s cultural antennae remained strong. His instincts never tired or went mainstream. His tip-offs were always about what was emerging. And his enthusiasm was undimmed by a bout of prostate cancer, followed by successive, quietly brave tussles with the lung cancer which claimed his life. He was the kind of 70-year-old whose response to a nasty chemo treatment was to offer you that evening’s Primal Scream tickets: ‘Those guys can really make some noise!’
On Tony’s death on 17th July, Time Out received hundreds of tributes from friends, ex-colleagues, readers, travellers and cultural explorers whose lives had been enhanced for the better in some way,. Friends described him variously as “Peter Pan”, “eternally youthful”, “an enthusiast” and “a gentle soul”. He shared that enthusiasm via his generous personal relationships, and it remains integral to the brand he founded, now sharing the highlights of urban culture in 326 cities globally.
His death occurred during the peak of Covid-19, which temporarily closed down and challenged the cities, galleries, restaurants, and culture spots which were Tony’s and Time Out’s passion. It’s a hinge moment: the end of an era which was spanned by his life but also the beginning of a new one, where, as in 1968, spirited calls for change and a punkish attitude to creating culture are emerging. He would have been incredibly excited to see it.
I vividly recall the first time I walked through the entrance to the Time Out office on Tottenham Court Road, with its iconic red neon logo reminding me so much of how proud I was to be a Londoner. I suppose that logo made so many people proud of the city they lived in. I arrived at that entrance to meet Tony Elliott, with his keen alert eyes, in his wonderful shirt which seemed to match the patterned carpet throughout the office. I decided then and there that Tony was a person – and Time Out was a brand – that Oakley would be proud to back and invest in, to build a digital (and later bricks-and-mortar) version of Time Out. How sad I am that he is unable to be with us to see the next steps in the brand’s global story.
Peter Dubens, Oakley Capital
You could always tell when Tony was in the office because people seemed to sit up a bit straighter at their desks. He would often stop to talk to different people as he walked through the office and ask them what they were working on, or tell them about a great event he had been to. He was always passionate about every single thing he was talking about.
Alex Batho, former publisher at Time Out
Tony loved Time Out: it was his life project, and his passion for the brand appeared in every conversation we ever had, whether in a board meeting or having lunch in one of his favourite places. I remember, when we took the company public in 2016, how proud he felt that his creation was now listed on the stock exchange. He told me: ‘Julio, this is the beginning of the next chapter, and you have to go with the times and innovate. Time Out will go on.’
On a personal level, I met Tony five years ago and spent many hours talking to him about his favourite subject: Time Out. Tony was very proud of his company and wanted to make sure all aspects of it were perfect – from the use of the signature Franklin Gothic typeface (come what may) to the features we posted online or the magazine covers worldwide. I will miss his advice, his smile, his passion and his profound understanding of the media world. And I will miss his friendship above all.
Julio Bruno, CEO, Time Out Group
Tony became a trustee of the art charity Create, which I run, in 2012. He was a brilliantly dedicated board member. I think maybe Tony liked working with us because we tend to work in the in-between spaces and around the edges of London. The last time I saw was a garden party and banjo performance we hosted last summer in Dagenham on the Becontree Estate. Tony came out to Dagenham to see us quite a bit. I think he was looking for the edges of things, of the city. Pushing outwards, never settling for the path well-trodden.
Hadrian Garrard, Create
In my stint at Time Out, I did not get too many opportunities to spend great lengths of time with Tony, which I knew even then was my great loss. The reverence with which those who did know Tony well spoke of him was always incredibly striking; he was this legendary figure, who’d started this incredible thing – something I loved being a part of – and someone who still cared deeply about it. He was a genius, a rapscallion, a stickler for detail and very fun. So the word went. The one time I did get to sit with Tony for a substantial period of time, talking about the brand and the magazine and its future, he was everything I had heard he would be and more. (Particularly the stickler for detail: He walked me through several gig listings that he thought could be improved – and he was right.) In creating Time Out, he gave me, and so many other journalists and creators like me, the opportunity to contribute to something beautiful and to grow as we did. And what he gave readers throughout the world was much more than that, something can never be overstated: He opened the aperture for what their lives in their cities could be.
Joel Meares, former global editor-in-chief at Time Out
‘I have to say...’ he told me, ‘I never thought you would do it.’ Not sure if I should feel flattered or insulted, I said. And we laughed. That sunny day in Lisbon, May 18 2014, was long and special to both of us. For me, and all of us in Time Out Lisbon team, opening the first Time Out Market was a huge personal milestone. A three-year fight to bring Time Out magazine to life, activating all its contents in a physical space. Tony knew all about the project, of course, supported it since day one, but was still impressed with the scale of the whole thing. The power, the size, the logo, the number of people wanting to get in, he loved it all. The first couple of hours I remember seeing him unusually silent, looking around, most probably thinking about what it could mean for the brand’s future. Then he came back to his usual self. Tony-the-talent-connector: ‘You need to know this guy, and this agency and this amazing friend of mine…’ And Tony-the-demanding- detail-master: ‘The logo is amazing but you really need to look to the one in Tottenham Court Road, especially the outline.’ From that day onwards I was lucky enough to have all these Tonys nearby. The day Time Out celebrated its fiftieth anniversary I sent him a message thanking him for his enormous creation. He thanked me back ‘for laying the foundation for the next decades’. Simply put, it was the most important compliment that any of us ever received.
During the days that have passed, it is deeply heartening to realise further what Time Out meant to so many and how my father’s dream helped improve the cultural experience of millions of people across the globe.
London, however, is Time Out’s spiritual home and it is here that he truly helped light a collective, creative fire that has burned with artistic fervour ever since.
For creativity is a human being’s ultimate expression; a soulful manifestation of our highest purpose – to bring inspiration to others in need of such an imaginative spark.
I’m proud that my father’s lifelong passion was to open up these creative connections we culturally share in an unprecedented way, long before the now universal digital-dawn of the internet, to enlighten the enthusiasm of Londoners and bring innovative meaning to them during a societal period where the avenues to the arts were not so immediately easy to locate.
Time Out was London’s lighthouse – shining the way to find them – and through its legacy, my father’s spirit and memory will, in part, live on.
He was always too modest in evaluating his life’s work by reflecting, ‘I had one idea, but it was a good one.’
It was a legendary one.
Lawrence Elliott is Tony Elliott’s son
I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the honour of being Tony’s eldest son for my 32 years. Growing up with such a prominent father was amazing. It was a gift of tremendous experiences and countless opportunities to meet fascinating, interesting and incredible people in some truly spectacular places. I am so enormously thankful for everything he has ever done for me. Dad always gave me the utmost care, love and humanity and that can only come from the greatest of human beings.
In another life the huge shadow he casts could become difficult, daunting even, but I can honestly say that my father created a life where this could never be the case. He taught me to be humble, tenacious and to follow my heart while always being respectful to everyone. The most valuable things in the world are ideas and people, he would say, find those and you will create a lasting legacy. The overwhelming love and support we have received from not just our family and friends, but so many people around the world is a testament to this.
The first gift he ever gave me was a framed cartoon of a tiny mouse pulling an elephant up a steep hill by its tail with the slogan ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. This has inspired me throughout my life and will always continue to do so. It reflects everything that my wonderful father stood for and I vow to ensure that he will never be forgotten.
I love you Dad and I miss you greatly. Thank you x
Rufus Elliott is Tony Elliott’s son
Every era has its heroes and my beloved husband, Tony, belonged to that pantheon of Gods who rose out of that extraordinary cultural time in the ’60s and went forth to spread the word across London and beyond about what was happening in your city. Time Out was essential reading each week in London. Whatever you did and wherever you did it, Tony was there ensuring it was in the magazine for you to do it. Countless people honed their skills at the university of Time Out, too many to imagine but if there was ever an official family tree, it would make a remarkable read.
Tony was an incredible person in so many ways and wherever he laid his magic hands, he gave it his all. He sat on many boards and charities that were important to him and gave support to countless other causes. He had huge energy and spirit and an extraordinary capacity for friendship. He was interested in everything almost to the end.
I met Tony when I worked with Pearce Marchbank, designer of some of Time Out’s most iconic covers through the ’70s. We went on to have three boisterous boys and a never-to-forget 40 years of life together.
So thank you, darling, for all your love, loyalty and friendship. You’ve lived a good life and leave it loved by so many. The world is a poorer place without you.
Forever in my heart.
Janey Elliott is Tony Elliott’s wife