The Teletubbies were the formative part of our childhood for many of us, and thus hold a special place in our heart. So, it is undeniably sad news that 52-year-old Simon Shelton Barnes, the actor who played Tinky Winky in the children’s series has passed away.
A father of three and hailing from Ampthill, Bedfordshire, Barnes was a trained ballet dancer and choreographer before he took on the role of the handbag-carrying Tinky Winky and unknowingly made an impression in the hearts and minds of children all around the world.
Simon Barnes has passed away (Source: Facebook)
Taken too soon, Barnes is also the brother-in-law of Poldark actor Robert Daws and uncle of Inbetweeners star Emily Atack. On Christmas day, he had posted on his Facebook page: “I’m on the fabulous Wirral and had a fantastic Christmas Day lunch with Jude and her extraordinary Dad, Ken. Hope you’re all Happy and Healthy xxx.”
Atack took to her Instagram to pay tribute to Barnes and his life, writing: “My wonderful uncle Simon Barnes has been taken from us all so suddenly. The kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet. Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever.”
Barnes was best known for playing Tinky Winky in the Teletubbies (Source: Twitter)
The character Barnes played, Tinky Winky, was the largest of the Teletubbies. The actor had previously played the role of Dark Knight in Incredible Games from 1994 to 1995, before replacing the original actor who played the purple Teletubby, Dave Thompson.
Thompson reportedly left over a controversy surrounding the character’s love for handbags and a misinterpretation that it was gay. He went on to do stand-up comedy and a party piece known as Naked Balloon Dance. Barnes admitted he was initially reluctant to take on the role but would go on to play the beloved BBC Two character between 1998 and 2001.
Barnes said he was initially apprehensive about playing Tinky Winky (Source: Twitter)
Talking to The Sun, he had said: “I started my career as a ballet dancer and has just started working as a choreographer. I thought it was a bit of a risky move but it certainly paid off. We used to receive a lot of fan mail from kids AND parents. I suppose we were a bit like the Beatles or Take That of children’s television.”
Barnes also says that he often had to field questions about Tinky Winky’s sexuality due to the character’s penchant for handbags. Speaking about it, he had said: “People always ask me if Tinky Winky is gay. But the character is supposed to be a three-year-old, so the question is really quite silly.”
The Beatles comparison feels apt, with Mike McGear McCartney, the brother of Beatles singer Paul McCartney also expressing his condolences on Facebook. He wrote: “So sorry to hear about Si. He was a lovely lad…and will be dancing along Uncle Bills bar, knocking Mum and Dad, Milly and Ginny, Mike and Betts drinks off, as we talk! Love to you and kids from me and mine.”
Barnes’ son, Henry, similarly expressed his grief, writing: “I lost my lovely dad on Wednesday, he was the kindest and most gentle man I knew and I love him more than anything. I always used to be embarrassed as a child that he was a dancer and an actor but now I couldn’t be more proud. He is in a better place now and I know he wouldn’t want me to be sad, so I’m going to live my life the way he would want me to.”
Barnes’ family has asked well-wishers to wear bright colors at his funeral (Source: Twitter)
Barnes’ family has asked mourners to ‘wear bright colors’ for his funeral, which is set to take place at the Bedford Crematorium in a fortnight’s time on February 7th. Several took to Twitter to express their condolences on the talented actor’s passing:
— Mirror TV (@MirrorTV) January 23, 2018
Tinky-Winky is dead. RIP. pic.twitter.com/034o73AnnB
— Jacob of Something, Someplace (@marrakoosh) January 23, 2018
RIP u will live on forever. Can't believe it. I wanna run to u. Really can't believe this. @
BBC News – Tributes paid to Teletubbies actor Simon Shelton https://t.co/NOCgxDYmQi
— Chanté 🇩🇲🇯🇲 (@ChantayyJayy) January 23, 2018
A childhood hero and icon he will be forever missed but remembered for generations.
Goodnight sweet Teletubbie
Rip Tinky Winky
— Tom Bamford (@BAMford_t) January 23, 2018
So I’ve just heard that Simon Shelton the first person to play Tinky-Winky from Teletubbies has died.
What a devastating hit to my childhood’s face to hear about this.
My thoughts are going to his family.
— RetroPokeFan (@poke_retro) January 23, 2018
I'm literally shocked right now : today Simon Shelton, the second actor to play Tinky-Winky, passed away at the age of 52, four days after his b-day! Teletubbies was one of the biggest part of my childhood, and hearing such news is horrible! I'm feeling so sorry for his family… pic.twitter.com/2ABJZVQD4P
— SnowyTenderEngine2001 (@VadimMelentiev) January 23, 2018
RIP Simon Barnes. 52 is far too young 😔. Condolences to the family. pic.twitter.com/VkK0N3LJuk
— Emma Peters (@emma1883) January 23, 2018
I just want to pay my respects today for the man who was behind the costume of Tinky Winky. I actually can't believe he passed this soon at the age of 52…
Teletubbies is part of what made my childhood so special, and I just want to thank him for that.
RIP, Simon Shelton. pic.twitter.com/S3AGdlappG
— Matt (@KnapfordEngine) January 23, 2018
— Rob Imossi (@robertimossi) January 23, 2018
RIP TINKYWINKY. FOREVER IN MY HEART.
Was always a sucker for tubby custard.
— Adam Dawson (@dawsonyweb) January 23, 2018