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Charity founder Camila Batmanghelidjh hailed as a ‘brilliant woman’ at funeral

Charity founder Camila Batmanghelidjh hailed as a ‘brilliant woman’ at funeral

Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh was hailed as a “brilliant woman” at a funeral awash with colour in accordance with her wishes.

In a statement read out at her funeral on Saturday morning at Golders Green Crematorium in North London by her brother Ardi, Ms Batmanghelidjh told those present to “not be sad”.

In her message, Ms Batmanghelidjh said she “had an absolutely brilliant life” and the “opportunity to serve amazing children and young people”.

Messages written on her coffin by well-wishers included “Your spirit will live forever” and “Queen of the South”.

Her family said she died peacefully in her sleep aged 61 on January 1 after a period of failing health.

Camila Batmanghelidjh
Camila Batmanghelidjh, died aged 61, on New Year’s Day (PA)

Ms Batmanghelidjh, who famously wore vivid clothing, asked attendees in her will to wear colour to the service, writing: “Under no condition should anyone wear black, colour is the order of the day!”

Mr Batmanghelidj said his sister’s greatest gift was “the ability to connect with people one-on-one”.

“During those moments one would feel total love and connection with her, wiping away a world of pain,” he wrote in a message for the funeral service.

Ardi Batmanghelidj speaking at the funeral of his sister and Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh
Ardi Batmanghelidj speaking at the funeral of his sister and Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh (Jeff Moore/PA)

Mr Batmanghelidj said her goal became “nothing short of disrupting the social services paradigm of the late 1990s”, adding that her mission, clients and staff were “victims of dirty politics in 2015”.

The fashion designer Bella Freud described Ms Batmanghelidjh as a “brilliant woman”.

Ms Freud, who cried as she addressed the funeral service, added that she “listened to children and treated them in a respectful way”.

The poet Lemn Sissay gave a reading of his poem Invisible Kisses at the service – which was attended by Alan Yentob, who served as chairman of Kids Company, and other public figures.

At a wake held for Ms Batmanghelidjh at Oasis Church Waterloo, Baptist minister Steve Chalke described her as an “inspiration”.

Mr Chalke, the founder of the Oasis Charitable Trust, added: “It wasn’t just intuition. She had this depth of scholarship and understanding behind everything that she was saying.

“Her words, insight and wisdom continue to speak to us and they always will.”

Ms Batmanghelidjh’s body lay in repose for five days before the funeral for well-wishers to visit and leave messages of gratitude.

The Iranian-born social justice campaigner founded Kids Company in 1996 to support vulnerable children and young people in London, expanding to operate centres in Bristol and Liverpool.

Camila Batmanghelidjh funeral
Many of the people helped as children by Ms Batmanghelidjh paid tribute (Jeff Moore/PA)

Her charity attracted several celebrity backers including former prime minister David Cameron, Coldplay, artist Damien Hirst and comedian Michael McIntyre – and Ms Batmanghelidjh was made a CBE for her work.

But it was wound up in 2015 after police launched an investigation, which was dropped seven months later, into unfounded allegations of abuse and exploitation, following the broadcast of a BBC Newsnight report.

In 2021, a bid to ban Ms Batmanghelidjh and seven ex-trustees from being company directors was rejected by a High Court judge, who commended her “enormous dedication” to young people.

In an obituary on her website, her family said: “Until her death, she continued to work with vulnerable children, who called her or visited her to discuss their traumas, their insecurities, and their challenges.

“Camila wanted to honour these children with the care and protection they deserved.”