The actor who played Teletubbies’ Tinky Winky has passed away, aged just 52

The Teletubbies will hold a special place in the memories of most and formed an important part of millions of children's childhood. The passing of Simon Shelton Barnes, who played Tinky Winky, will surely leave many feeling the hurt.


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:



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