Simon Shelton Barnes, who played Tinky Winky, dies aged 52

Simon Shelton Barnes, who played Tinky Winky, dies aged 52”

Tributes have been paid to Teletubbies actor, dancer and choreographer Simon Shelton Barnes who passed away earlier this week.

Shelton played Tinky Winky from 1998 to 2001, taking over for original performer Dave Thompson.

Barnes previously spoke about his role as Tinky Winky, saying that he believes the Teletubbies "were a bit like the Beatles". "He's not straight. He's just a character in a children's series".

Barnes was a trained ballet dancer and choreographer, but found fame as the largest and oldest Teletubby who always carried a red handbag after he joined the children's hit show in 1997. Barnes replaced the original actor in the role of Tinky Winky after 70 episodes.

Barnes' niece, "Inbetweeners" star Emily Atack, shared a tribute to her uncle on Instagram on January 19.

She captioned the post: "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. He was the kindest and most gentle man I knew and I love him more than anything! "The most handsome man in the world", his daughter wrote on Facebook.

Despite the controversy surrounding the character, Shelton always thought the speculation that Tinky Winky was gay was "silly".

Another tribute came from the photographer Mike McGear, who is the brother of Paul McCartney and second cousin to Barnes' ex-wife, Emma.

He added: "We used to receive a lot of fan mail from children and parents". Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever'.

The funeral will take place on the 7 February at the Bedford Crematorium.

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