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My people: Director Joel Simon's special relationships

By Kerry McKittrick

Published 26/06/2015

Family man: Joel Simon with Jonah and Noah
Family man: Joel Simon with Jonah and Noah

The 41-year-old is the creative director of Flickerpix Animation Studios and has won over 40 international awards for animated films and programs, including Gerry Anderson’s On The Air series. Originally from Belgium, he lives in Belfast with his wife, Jenny, and their children Jonah (9), Noah (7) and baby Lola (8 weeks).

My wife, Jenny

I moved to Northern Ireland for just one year after the Troubles ended in the 1990s.

I met Jenny through her brother Ben, who is also a filmmaker, when he came to me for some advice on animation. He invited me to the cinema to see Star Wars with him and Jenny came along too. She's exactly my type and we fell in love straight away. I found out later that she didn't particularly care about the Star Wars film, she was just intrigued about meeting this Belgian animator everyone was talking about.

Jenny is an art teacher and also has an online catering business, Silver Spoon Service.

My children

I love being a dad to Jonah, Noah and Lola - I never thought I would be a decent dad, but I think I am now. It's my favourite thing in life, bar none.

It's lovely having a baby again - it's a real throwback to the old days, which seem like a while ago, because the two boys were quite close together in age. Lola has changed the dynamic of the family and she keeps me on my toes.

My best friend

One is Jude Godden, who now lives in England. I had a lot of student friends in Belfast when I first came over here and Jude is one of them.

I also have lots of friends in the Polish community, like Grzegor and Edyta Gabrys. Jenny actually met them through a mother and toddlers' group and they're lovely people, relaxed and great craic.

My parents

My mum Gerda passed away a few years ago from cancer and my dad Joseph now lives in Gran Canaria. They ran a fish farm together which my dad started from scratch.

Like Jenny and me, my parents were from two different cultures. My dad came from a French-speaking village while my mum came from a German one. I grew up in a French-speaking village but we all spoke German there. I only learned to speak English at 18.

I have an older brother, Guy, and an older sister, Myriam. We are a close family but because we're so spread out we don't get to see each other very much and rely a lot on Skype.

Growing up, my parents could never see any point in any of my creative outlets, like drawing cartoons and reading Belgian comics. After much persuasion, though, they let me study art in Liege, in Belgium.

My mentor, Gerry Anderson

Gerry was a good friend of mine and we got to know each other while working on the On The Air series.

He had a profound influence on me. I admired him hugely, not just for his talent as a broadcaster and raconteur extraordinaire, but for his personality.

Person I go to for advice

Jenny always tells it like it is. I can always rely on her for honest feedback on whatever decisions I have to make.

My celebrity crush

Lauren Laverne from BBC 6 Music. I think it's her voice. I could listen to her forever, no matter what she talks about.

Fantasy dinner party

I have a slight fascination for television host Simon Amstell, so he would be my first guest.

I would stick the comedian Bill Bailey in there as he could give some random observations about the food.

A good animator to have there would be Nick Park.

And I would like to ask the German electronic band Kraftwerk questions about how they recorded their music.

Belfast Telegraph

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