–   Ant & Dec gained nearly 3 in 5 of all votes from 2,000 UK parents when asked to name their best celebrity friendship for new Thomas & Friends International Friendship Survey
–   Holly Willoughby came in second and third place with her friendships with Phillip Schofield and Fearne Cotton both highly regarded by mums and dads across the country
–   David Beckham & Gordon Ramsay and Billie & Sam Faiers make up the Top 5 best celebrity friendships taking fourth and fifth place respectively
–   The poll also ran in seven other countries and in total asked 12,000 parents about their views on their children’s friendships

Ant & Dec have been crowned best celebrity friendship by parents in the UK for a new survey from children’s brand Thomas & Friends, released today ahead of annual UN International Day of Friendship on 30 July.

The multi-award-winning comedy TV duo, who have been best friends both on and off screen for over 27 years since meeting on the set of children’s drama series Byker Grove, gained nearly 3 in 5 of all votes (58%) from 2,000 millennial mums and dads with kids aged 2-5 years old, who took part in the Thomas & Friends International Friendship Survey.
This Morning host Holly Willoughby came second and third place in survey – her friendship with fellow host on the show Phillip Schofield received 34% of all votes in the runners-up position and her friendship with broadcaster Fearne Cotton came in third place with 18%.

The two other celebrity friendships completing the top 5 are David Beckham & Gordon Ramsay and Billie & Sam Faiers, which were both highly rated in the new study, which ran in 8 major countries and also questioned 12,000 parents about their views on their children’s first friendships.

A love of Newcastle United and films first brought Ant and Dec together as friends. They had seen one other on the set of Byker Grove but paid little attention to each other. Reportedly Ant hated Dec’s jokes, Dec thought Ant miserable. But soon the pair became inseparable as their characters found themselves in more scenes together, so a friendship grew.

“We’d never met before but the two characters became friends so ultimately we would be hanging around on set waiting for our scenes to be done or hanging out in the Green Room, or sitting next to each other when we were getting tutored,” recalled Dec in a recent interview about their friendship.

“We then got to be in scenes together and honestly it was sat there talking about Newcastle United and the games and who our favourite players were and who we didn’t like – it’s the same chat as we have now to be honest, 25 years on – that’s how we bonded really,” says Ant.


1)    Ant & Dec
2)    Holly Willoughby & Phillip Schofield
3)    Holly Willoughby & Fearne Cotton
4)    David Beckham & Gordon Ramsay
5)    Billie & Sam Faiers
6)    Gregg Wallace & John Torode
7)    Nick Grimshaw & Harry Styles
8)    Victoria Beckham & Eva Longoria
9)    Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow
10)  Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman

The release of the findings today by Thomas & Friends has been timed to coincide with the upcoming UN International Day of Friendship on Sunday 30 July and the wider results of the poll help to paint an important picture of modern parents’ attitudes towards their children’s first friendships – and the steps mums and dads from different countries take to nurture and maintain their children’s important relationships with other youngsters. Thomas & Friends, as a global brand franchise, is today enjoyed by families in more than 150 territories with its content is appearing in over 40 different languages. This year Thomas & Friends is celebrating and solidifying its status as a social-connector brand for kids with an important role of helping children to forge their first friendships through encouraging positive playtime. The brand’s motto this year which is used across all business lines, “Set Friendship in Motion,” being testament to this.

The International Day of Friendship was proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. The International Day of Friendship is an initiative that emphasises that the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence should be instilled in children through education. If children learn to live together in peace and harmony that will contribute to the strengthening of international peace and cooperation.


With 82% of all parents questioned for the poll saying they’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their child has good friends and a further three fifths (62%) admitting to trying to influence their child’s choice of friends, the study reveals that parents around the world unanimously view their children’s first friendships as a top parenting priority for them. Over half (57%) of British parents say they try to influence their children’s friendship choices with more mums (44%) than dads (34%) likely to do this.

The research also uncovers that 2 in 5 (42%) British parents wish their child had more friends, meaning UK has lowest rate of parents desiring more mates for their kids out of all nations polled. By contrast almost all (97%) parents in China say they wish their child had more mates. Most British parents believe that six friends is a healthy amount for their child to have and only half (48%) of British parents feel it is important for their child to have a best friend – this again ranks them lowest out of all countries and contrasting significantly with 92% of Chinese parents who came out most in favour of their child having a ‘bestie’.

However there is one major similarity between all the nations that the survey struck up: honesty is the top friendship trait parents from all corners of the globe most value for their child. In fact, mums and dads from all countries who took part in the study ranked honesty top out of a list of 13 friendship traits, including more than 6 in 10 (63%) of British mum and dads. UK parents also voted kindness (49%), being respectful of others (30%) and loyalty (30%) as the friendship traits they deem most valuable for their children.

To conclude the survey parents were asked if they be believed their country of residence is a friendly place to raise a child.  On a scale of 1-10 (1 = extremely unfriendly, 10 = extremely friendly), UK, Italy, Germany and Poland all rated their country a 6, whilst USA, Russia, France and China rated a 7 on average. Over half (55%) of Chinese respondents report that their country is a friendlier place now, than when they were growing up, compared to just 18% of UK respondents and 15% of those questioned in Russia.

Wendy Hill, Brand Activation Director, Mattel UK, says: “Thomas & Friends, by virtue of how they work together as a team, is inspiring the next generation of friendships that help children forge deep connections – first connections – particularly valuable in our digital age. All parents want their children to have friends and develop the necessary social and emotional skills that will help them grow. Our research carried out in eight different countries for our inaugural Thomas & Friends International Friendship Survey gives us new insights into some of the similarities and differences between modern parents from around the world on how they view their child’s first friendships. The research shows that whilst there’s a varying degree to which most parents choose to help nurture, maintain and even influence these important relationships on behalf of their child, one striking similarity between all parents surveyed shines though – their choice of honesty as the friendship trait most valued for their child. The research also highlights that whilst many parents rate their country as above average for being a friendly place to raise their child, there is room for improvement with all countries, and as we look forward to this year’s UN International Day of Friendship on 30 July, there is no better time for us all to reflect on how we can make our homes, our cities and our planet, the very best place it can be for our children so that their friendships can flourish.”

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