Teletubbies' Tinky Winky actor Simon Shelton Barnes has died aged 52
Tributes are being paid after the actor, choreographer and ballerina who played Tinky Winky in the children's television series Teletubbies has suddenly died aged 52. Simon Shelton had three children and was living in Ampthill, Bedfordshire at the time of his death and his family members have taken to social media to share their grief. Shelton was part of an acting family, his brother-in-law was Poldark actor Robert Daws and he was the uncle of Inbetweeners star Emily Atack.
Barnes took over the role as the much-loved character in 1997 after the original Tinky Winky was fired from the show, and though he was initially reluctant to take over he credited the decision with changing his life. He once said: '"I started my career as a ballet dancer and had 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 the Take That of children's television.". The topic of the character's sexuality is said to have come up often in interviews as he carries a handbag in all of his scenes and that's supposed to be seen as a stereotypically gay action. Simon explained that, as Tinky Winky was supposed to be three, the question seemed silly and pointless.
Simon's career included stints on BBC children's game show Incredible Games in 1994 and 1995, and he was a featured dancer in the 1993 musical drama film Swing Kids. His family has asked mourners to wear bright colours for his funeral which is at Bedford Crematorium in a fortnight's time on February 7.