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 here in the capital 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.
Share your memories of Tony with us here.