Tributes to Canford and Metro Radio founder

Stephen Chapman's picture
by Stephen Chapman

Iain Elliott, the founder of Canford and one of the key people behind Metro Radio, has died from cancer.

He established Canford in 1976, initially as a “one stop shop” for audio, based in the North East. It’s since become one of the key sources for the broadcast, theatre and AV industry.

“Iain has been Canford’s guiding force for most of the last 45 years, but he was away from the company for nine months from September 1999 – and was applauded by all the staff when he made his return to the factory in June 2000,” said John Francis, Chairman, Canford.

“He knew everybody; his management style was to go round talking to people. His knowledge of ‘products’ can scarcely have been rivalled in the industry and he maintained excellent relations with key customers and suppliers.”

The engineering graduate initially got experience at a number of BBC local radio stations, before helping put together the newly licensed Metro Radio in 1974.

Metro was one of just 6 commercial radio stations at the time, and Elliott realised that there was no specialist supplier for equipment.

That led him to setting up Canford alongside Hugh Morgan Williams.

“In 1976 the idea of an audio ‘one stop shop’ came to him, and Canford Audio was born, with its first premises in Ryton,” continued Francis.

“Early on, I used to visit Iain for supper once a year and put the accounts together on the kitchen table afterwards, but growth was rapid and the accounting requirements quickly became more sophisticated. Canford Audio became a limited company in August 1978.”

In 1981, Canford put together a 24-page catalogue of broadcasting kit, by 2010, it had grown into a 1500-page “industry bible.”

Last year, the company celebrated its 45th anniversary having become a £17m operation, employing 140 staff. In 2019, it became employee owned.

“We had the confidence to do this,” explained Francis. “Because we knew that we would be leaving the company in capable hands. That time has come sooner than expected but we have confidence in the management team. The pandemic has brought out the best in the Canford staff over the past two years. Iain will be sadly missed, but he was proud to know that his legacy will survive him.

“Nothing needs to change at Canford as a result of Iain's passing. A number of staff members have become directors of the company in the past year, including Deputy CEO Alan Wilson, who is now Acting CEO. I fully share Iain's own confidence in the board and the management team. Canford has just come to the end of an outstandingly successful trading year, despite the pandemic, and that team will continue to lead the company from strength to strength.”

The funeral will be a “small affair” taking place on Friday, with a memorial being held at a later date.

Enjoyed this? Get our latest updates in your inbox every day

Subscribe to Prolific North’s morning newsletter to keep up with all the most important things going on in your sector.