There can be no sadder sight than a hot air ballon collapsing in ignominy. Speaking as someone who once spent some months working for a hot air balloon company, I know just how many hours go into stitching the brightly coloured squares of silk that become a high flying multi-coloured Saturday Swap Shop that will command the attention of every kid – and the adults – as it soars effortlessly across the landscape, supported by nothing more than hot air, a van full of volunteers, and endless financial contributions. They are an expensive hobby.
To see them deflating and helpless on the open prairie, diminishing inch by brightly coloured inch as they wait for willing hands to pack them away with their accompanying basket cases, before marauding wildebeest can tear them to pieces, is to witness the end of a noble behemoth.
Indulging in this bout of nostalgia, as I am wont from time to time, led me to ponder the matter of Camilla Batmanghelidjh’s majestic outfits. My mind can make some bizarrely unaccountable leaps between subjects.
Who made those costumes, why, what did they signify? Did the couturier once work for a hot air balloon company?
Camilla is Iranian, any clues from national dress? Certainly colourful, but not quite the exploding kindergarten paint pots that we have come to associate with Camilla.
Camilla herself says: “My basic look is a portable curtain, wallpaper, furniture shop, art house, ramshackle, second-hand outlet”. So many clues in there.
If you want to sell a new arts project or promote a social-cause oriented charity, you need to capture the attention of sufficient arty types with the spare cash to invest in your dream. You think Grayson Perry’s outfits are merely a reflection of his personality? They are more than that, they signify ‘good photo opportunity’ and ‘you might get in shot if you stand next to me’ to the great and the good of the liberal world – as do Camilla’s. It was no surprise to find that although frequently described as a psychotherapist, which she is, Camilla’s laudable first class degree (‘she’s good at this’) was in Theatre and Dramatic Arts.
Some have said that Camilla’s head-dress owes more to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Sunday-best titfer than a ‘Nigerian Dictator’s wife’ Parisian shopping outfit – Camilla herself says: ‘I began wearing the turban when I started being in the public eye so much; I wanted to keep a boundary – something that was private’.
A curious desire to keep what was going on from the neck up ‘private’ whilst shrieking from the rooftops ‘look at me’ from the neck down?
Most social workers in deprived areas make an attempt to ‘dress down’ so as to blend in, not alienate their clients by appearing to spend their dosh on unattainably fashionable clothing. Not Camilla; she bought fabric in Peckham market reputedly, before she had acquired the ‘36,000’ deprived kids, whose deprivation was improved by ‘scavenging in the streets for scraps of fabric’ with which to adorn their Queen…..how truly theatrical.
The figure of 36,000 ‘clients’ includes 19,000 children at dozens of schools in London and four in Bristol, with whom Kids Company workers came into contact in some way, along with 7,000 parents or family members, some of whom directly benefit from therapy and other support – and the youngsters in its figures included the classmates of those children taking part in its activities. Kids Company justified their inclusion on the basis that the children benefited from the knock-on effects of the activities.
However, figures in the same report suggest the actual number is far lower.
Under the heading Why Kids Company Is Needed, it states: “In 2013 we worked with 750 exceptionally vulnerable young people.”
One of those ‘exceptionally vulnerable young people’ who will now be ‘abandoned on the mean streets of London’ according to supporters of Kids Company, has been revealed to be young Ms Cavolli. Ms Cavolli’s father earns a mere £40,000 a year, as a chauffeur. Not nearly enough to pay £28,000 a year for private school education at the exclusive Dauntsey School. Such deprivation could not go unaddressed. Camilla and one of the Kid’s Company trustees, Richard Handover, put their heads together to overcome this hurdle in life, waved their magic donor funded wand (made easier when you learn that the same Richard Handover is also Chairman of the board of governors at Dauntsey) and lo! Ms Cavolli was henceforth educated with Britain’s finest. A heartwarming tale of a deprived girl plucked from obscurity? Not really. Ms Cavolli’s father is Camilla Batman’s personal chauffeur…
Dressing as a hot air balloon would not be sufficient to persuade the luvvies to loosen the chequebooks; the £37 million that tax payers have splashed into Kid’s Company’s multi-coloured playpen is but part of the £160 million Camilla has ostensibly spent on those 36,000 deprived children ( £4444.44 a piece if you are interested, or a totally horrific figure if you divide £160 million by 750 children…).
Something more than just a photo opportunity needed to be added to the mix. Perhaps a belief that they were funding something that would forever mark the luvvie elite as different from the ‘deprived’, as special people?
How about a theory straight from the ‘Bumper book of Eugenics’. Repackaged, naturally. We have moved on since the Victorian worthies were wooed by wall charts showing the typical ‘criminal brain’.
In 2009, The Daily Mail was beside itself with excitement at hearing of Camilla’s latest fund raising ploy – she had linked up with University College London, and was proposing a ‘mobile van’ which would tour deprived areas, scanning the brains of feral youths…(Miss Raccoon thinks she could tell you what has become of those mobile vans!) Camilla had chanced upon a 2002 US study which purported to show that unloved children had smaller brains (a thesis which she later translated into advertising, claiming that ‘kid’s who can kill really are wrong in the head’ – and was roundly condemned by the advertising standards authority).
There is nothing that the elite like more than the thought that it is not just money which separates them from the lower orders, but an intrinsic fundamental genetic strand of DNA. It means that they need never fear sliding back down the greasy pole, money can come and go, but a different DNA means you will always be of a higher order. How comforting.
Camilla herself is on record as saying that this thesis was good for ‘fund-raising’. There is another aspect to it. A paternalistic belief that what separates the deprived from the privileged is the colour of your bedclothes and bedroom wall. Look carefully at the photo on your left. ‘Kid’s Company’ label it ‘Squalor bedo and pram’. Despite the headline word ‘Squalor’, the ceiling has been recently painted, the walls appear to be carefully filled ready for further decoration. There is a mattress with navy blue bed coverings, a pram and a television.
Now consider what happens when you give ‘Kid’s Company’ some of your hard earned cash. They give the room a ‘make-over’. Voila! Same room. Coat of paint. No TV. Pink metal legs under your mattress – a bean bag (you can still sit on the floor, once ‘unsqualored’) and a pink plastic bag covers your belonging. All very laudable – but who knew that the difference between ‘deprivation’ and a Kid’s Company ‘rescued kid’ was three inches of pink metal legs under your mattress?
It’s window dressing, same as the clothing Camilla wears. Cheap Theatre. It’s consumed £160 million pounds. Nobody really knows where the money has gone. I think I might have a clue as to why it slipped away unnoticed. I finally found out who makes Camilla’s clothes.
“I don’t actually buy clothes at all any more. In the early days I used to buy fabric. Now children [from Kids Company] pick it up from skips or charity shops – old curtains, whatever – and I cut it up and collage it on the floor. Then, when I’m happy with it, the accountant here sews it for me. She’s become so good at it.
There’s your answer. Nothing to do with the Queen of Child Protection being punished for ‘finally having the courage’ to come forward with the latest list of VIP sexual abusers (30 years later):
A children’s charity head claims that she is being pressured to resign after approaching the government with a list of establishment figures involved in an historical child sex abuse case.
No, Camilla’s problems can be directly traced back to using the bloody accountant to turn her into Madame Arcati’s ugly sister – caught unawares in a nuclear kaleidoscope explosion.
If only the accountant had stuck to adding up the figures they wuz robbin’ – instead of camouflaging Batman’s figure; Camila Batmanghelidjh might not have been so humiliatingly deflated.
Batman and Robbin’. Robbin’ Hoo? Robbin’ it could be Youhoo….
Don’t get me started on Alan Yentob.
arts and culture,