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Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story, BBC One

Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story, BBC One

Lynn Alleway's documentary gets up close and personal, but reveals little

Part evangelist, part Dame Edna: Camila Batmanghelidjh

In 2005, Lynn Alleway made a film about Kids' Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh called Tough Kids – Tough Love. In June last year, Alleway was invited to film her again. It wasn't spelled out in this new documentary, but you'd have to assume Batmanghelidjh was hoping to enlist some sympathetic media coverage, since the management and funding of Kids Company was coming under a gathering crescendo of scrutiny.

Certainly, Alleway got plenty of access to Ms B, whom we saw speaking at length in the backs of cars, in corridors, on pavements, on phones and in her office. Alleway, behind the camera, tried to insert the occasional question, but Batmanghelidjh simply rolled over her with an unstinting wave of self-justifying rhetoric. Much, it seems, as she has always done with just about everybody she comes across, not least David Cameron, who was instrumental in keeping funds flowing to Kids Company despite a string of warnings from the LSE, the Charity Commission and various Whitehall bean-counters. Apparently Dave thought Kids Company epitomised the "Big Society", one of his great ideas we never hear about anymore. A final £3m government bailout was authorised last June, just before the charity collapsed. (Sure about this, Dave? Cameron and Camila, below).

There was no reason to doubt Batmanghelidjh's sincere commitment to the thousands of kids she has helped, nor that Kids Company has helped some of them very greatly indeed. Alleway zoomed in on Chesney, a long-term client now being educated at boarding school, thanks to Kids Co. Her poised, self-confident manner spoke for itself. Then there was Jamaican former asylum seeker Annie, a Kids Co client for 13 years. Not that she's a "kid" these days, being 34, but Batmanghelidjh seems to have adopted her as a personal crusade. ("She's very very special," she confided.)

Batmanghelidjh, resembling a gigantic arrangement of tropical fruit in her rainbow coalition of shawls and scarves, radiates a unique form of charisma, part evangelist, part Dame Edna. She liked to greet her adoring Kids Company staff with a theatrical "Hello lovelies!", and her morale-raising speeches were heavy on emotion, yet light on detail. As was Alleway's documentary, which reported the official findings that Kids Co was a financial shambles, but didn't attempt any probing research or analysis. There were tearful scenes of Kids Co employees bewailing the fate of the children who relied on them, and Batmanghelidjh declaring it was all a media witch hunt, but facts and figures? Nope. Alan Yentob, formerly the charity's chairman of trustees, declined Alleway's invitation to take part in the film, though we saw a clip of him being grilled on TV by Matt Frei and defiantly asserting that "there is not financial mismanagement" (Yentob and Camila, below).

This was true – there was no financial mismanagement because it appeared there wasn't any financial management at all. Yet while Batmanghelidjh didn't quite say so, the inference was that given the chance she'd do the same all over again. Everything she did, she did for the kids. None of it was her fault. "Realism never got anyone anywhere, Lynn," she declared.

Eventually it even dawned on Alleway that she was being sold a pup. She wanted to know who was to blame. "It's a very good question, who's to blame," said Batmanghelidjh whimsically. "I just think it's a collective madness that the media and the politicians engaged in and I was supposed to be killed off." Tellingly, when Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs called on her mobile, Batmanghelidjh didn't answer.

'Realism never got anyone anywhere, Lynn,' she declared


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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