Tony Elliott and his wife Janey, stood in the courtyard at Somerset House

A Tribute to Tony Elliott

23 Jul 2020

Somerset House is very sad to have lost a dear friend in Tony Elliott, who died following a long battle with cancer on 16 July. Visionary founder of Time Out, Tony was Somerset House Trust’s longest serving trustee on the board from 1999 when the Trust was set up, until 2017.
When Tony joined the board the idea of Somerset House as a vibrant centre for contemporary culture was in its infancy. The Trust had only just been created and occupied less than a quarter of the current site, with the Director working out of a portacabin in the courtyard. Tony’s broad cultural interests and prodigious network, played a key role in shaping what Somerset House was to become. He always encouraged the team to be bold and to innovate, establishing London’s first temporary outdoor ice rink, the first outdoor cinema, right through to becoming home to the UK’s largest community of creative enterprises, artists and makers today.
The energy and boundless curiosity that led Tony to establish Time Out is much in evidence in how Somerset House has evolved as a site for making and experimentation that is not confined by any single art-form and seeks out the niches that others ignore. Tony’s entrepreneurial flair was also very much in evidence in the decisions Somerset House has taken to enable it to become a self-sustaining arts charity, from bringing in restaurant partners to renting space out to other creative enterprises.
Tony’s passion for people and ideas was utterly infectious and his attention to detail was unsettling (messages about typos and grammatical mistakes were regular). Although he retired from the board 3 years ago, Tony continued to remain very actively involved in Somerset House. He was always the first to spot what was going on at Somerset House and remained someone that we would regularly turn to for advice. His enthusiasm and encouragement were endlessly motivating and didn’t stop even when he was ill. Even in his last weeks he managed to send an email about our lockdown activity which simply said “Very impressive!”
Coincidentally, the year after he retired as a trustee we did an exhibition about the story of independent progressive magazine culture called Print; Tearing It Up. We interviewed him and as a reminder of Tony’s sparky brilliance we are sharing this podcast which highlights his extraordinary flair and range of interests.  

We are grateful for everything Tony stood for and what he did for Somerset House. The staff and the many trustees who worked with him will miss him greatly. We send our condolences to his wife Janey and sons Rufus, Bruce and Lawrence.

Photo: Janey and Tony Elliott at Somerset House © Dave Bennett/Getty Images