Wise-cracking TV funnyman Ted Robbins had scores of mourners rolling in the aisles at the funeral of the tragic actor who played handbag-carrying Tinky Winky in television’s TellyTubbies.
Brother-in-law Ted and other relatives of Simon Shelton Barnes, who froze to death at the age of 52 after collapsing in Liverpool last month, were determined it would be a “celebration of his life” rather than a sad occasion.
People were asked to wear bright colours and “have a party” at the packed Bedford Crematorium and later during a wake at the White Hart Hotel in the father-of-three’s home town of Ampthill.
Among a string of celebrities there were Simon’s actress first wife Emma Robbins, a cousin of Paul McCartney, niece Emily Atack, who starred in the Inbetweeners and Dancing on Ice, and the actors who played the other three TellyTubbies.
Writer Andrew Davenport, who created the long-running BBC children’s series which was shown in 120 countries and translated into 45 different languages, sent a message saying: “An extraordinary performer and a wonderful person. Not to mention the most fantastic company.”
Afterwards Simon’s daughter Lydia posted on Facebook: “Yesterday we said goodbye to our beautiful dad. It was extremely sad but what an incredible celebration and one of the best parties we’ve had.
“I know he was looking down having a drink and a dance too. Thank you all so much for coming to celebrate his amazing life. What a turn out. Love you so much dad.”
One friend of Simon said: “The whole funeral was a hoot. Everybody knew and loved him in Ampthill. He was a larger than life character.”
American evangelist Jerry Falwell caused a storm in 1999 after claiming Tinky Winky could be “a covert homosexual symbol” because he was purple, had a triangle-shaped antenna and carried a handbag. Both the BBC and Simon denied that.
Series creator Davenport, said: “Performing as a Teletubby was demanding enough – but as we know, Tinky Winky in particular became the focus of much of the controversy, right from the start.
“Simon balanced it all brilliantly, meeting all the madness with his usual incredulous smile, disarming warmth and infectious humour. He was an incredible steadying influence in those crazy times. An extraordinary performer and a wonderful person.”