TV presenter Simon Thomas has revealed son Ethan, 10, could be following in his famous dad’s footsteps after making videos in lockdown.
Speaking in support of Chris Evans’ 500 Words: Black Lives Matter children’s writing competition for children between five and 13 years old, Simon revealed his pride at his son’s new hobby of making Instagram videos showing off his art skills.
Simon tells The Sun Online: “Ethan has always loved his drawings (he has ambitions of being a Lego designer one day!) and he wanted me to set up his own Instagram account (@ethansartclub) so that he could share some of his drawings.
“We started making these videos called #LockdownDoodles where Ethan shows other kids how to draw something – so far he’s drawn a boy, a girl, a cat, a Ninja, and a Cyborg!
“He draws and I edit the video and we’ve both really enjoyed making them. Maybe he’s going to follow in my footsteps as he’s very natural in front of camera – miles better than I’d have been at 10 years old.
“He’s even had a few messages from teachers to say they have used his videos in their classes and I know this has made him feel very proud!”
Simon and Ethan’s lives were turned upside down in November 2017 when Simon’s wife Gemma tragically died just three days after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.
In late 2018, Simon met new girlfriend, Derrina Jebb, through his church and earlier this year he revealed she’s helped heal their family.
“Where we were two-and-a-half years ago is light years away from where we are now. Derrina has brought so much love, happiness and laughter to my life and Ethan’s."
Sadly, Simon’s lockdown has also been affected by tragedy, with his beloved father Andrew passing away in hospital aged 78.
“The hardest part of lockdown has been losing my Dad. He didn’t die from coronavirus, but losing him during this period and relying on FaceTimes and not being able to have the funeral we wanted for him was really hard,” admits Simon.
“However, I have to count my blessings because I could visit him in hospital and say goodbye. I'm very aware that many people haven’t been able to do this when a loved one has lay dying. I cannot begin to imagine how horribly hard that must be.”
But, ex Sky Sports presenter Simon tells The Sun Online it’s been great having girlfriend Derrina around in lockdown – and she’s been a massive help with homeschooling Ethan.
“I have loved getting to spend lots of time with Derrina and Ethan and whilst home schooling has been somewhat challenging at times, we’ve had some good times too, especially Joe Wicks’ PE lessons and expanding our cooking repertoires,” he says.
“Derrina has been amazing at juggling working from home and helping out with teaching Ethan. She has been great at doing the bits I struggle with, namely maths, and when I’m running out of patience, she’s been a very calming influence!”
And Ethan will be taking part in 500 Words: Black Lives Matter, after the competition was launched this week by Angellica Bell and Michael Underwood.
“To be honest we didn’t have to do much in the way of encouraging him, as soon as we told him about the competition he was up for it as he has always enjoyed creative writing so this is right up his street and he started jotting down a plan for a story as soon as the competition was announced,” says Simon – although he admits he wasn’t as keen on writing when he was younger.
“My first ever attempt at writing a diary as a teenager ended up with each day being described as little more than got up, went to school, had chilli con carne for tea and went to bed.
"Needless to say my diary writing didn’t last long! Although I have written a book and a few blogs, it is something I’d like to get back into again as I love writing, especially when it’s something I am passionate about,” he says.
Talking about why he’s backing the competition, Simon says: “I have always found writing to be a positive outlet which helps me to process difficult subjects.
Having had conversations about recent events including Black Lives Matter with my son Ethan and seeing the impact that the circumstances around the death of George Floyd has had on him, I think it is really important for all children to be able to express themselves.
“500 Words is a great opportunity for children to have a creative outlet to write about subjects that affect them and feel empowered in doing so.
“Kids have an inherent but innocent wisdom and amazing perspective and perhaps in enabling them to write their truths creatively, we could learn a lot more! While Ethan will never experience racism, we would love for him to be part of a generation that creates change for the better.
“After the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed, we have had to have some fairly difficult conversations about injustices in the world with Ethan.
"Tackling big issues of privilege, prejudices and institutionalised racism with a 10 year old is really tough but thankfully he has a heart for other people and wants to speak out against unfairness.
"I think it’s really important to be able to chat through these issues with Ethan, even when it’s not particularly comfortable.”
The 500 Words competition closes on 3 July, and entries can be submitted at 500Words.me.
It’s for children aged between 5 and 13 years old, and seeks to engage young people of all ethnicities and backgrounds across the UK in creative expression, building on the international conversation around Black Lives Matter.
Angellica and Michael will chair the judging panel, and will be joined by a team of celebrity judges for the semi-finals: former Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman OBE, actor, comedian and author Charlie Higson, children’s author Francesca Simon, and screenwriter and novelist Frank Cottrell-Boyce.
The winner of the competition will be invited to join Chris Evans on his Virgin Radio Breakfast Show on 17 July.
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