Pandora: Hirst gives a heart-shaped gift to support children's charity in need

Damien Hirst's record-breaking one-man art sale at Sotheby's this week has had its fair share of critics. The respected Australian critic, Robert Hughes, for one, said the megabucks auction showed "the extreme disproportion between Hirst's expected prices and his actual talent".

One person who will not be joining the cacophony, however, is Camila Batmanghelidjh, the colourful founder of Kids Company, a London-based charity for children who are marginalised from society. According to Camila, Hirst has, unbeknown to the public, supported her organisation for several years and even donated one of his auction lots – a black-and-white painting of a heart decorated with butterflies – to the club's under-14 department. It was sold on Monday night for £560,000.

"Everyone is talking about how rich Damien is getting but they have no idea that over the past year he has quietly given us more than £1m," Camila tells me. "He even gave the kids a tour around Sotheby's before the auction, talking us all through each picture. As one of the children said afterwards, 'He's not a snob'."

Before Hirst became involved in the charity, Batmanghelidjh had never even met him.

"He is not someone I have wined and dined or anything," she says. "One day his manager, Frank, called me up and said that they had heard we had had some trouble with government funding. Before that I didn't know Damien Hirst at all."

Jodie to miss her big race

Jodie Kidd will be hoping her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing will give her professional career a much-needed boost, but it does have its drawbacks.

Kidd owns a stake in a promising two-year-old colt called Print, which is trained by Mick Channon. The horse, part of the Highclere Thoroughbred racing operation, is due to run at Newbury on Friday. Due to Strictly's rehearsal schedule, Kidd now sadly will not be able to make it.

"Jodie is a bit pissed off, but then training fees don't just pay themselves," says a chum.

June bags herself a return date with Tony

The former prime minister, Tony Blair, unashamedly courted the "yoof" vote ahead of the 2005 general election, by agreeing to an interview with the T4 presenter, June Sarpong, for Channel 4.

The modish broadcaster, who is now based in California, clearly made quite an impression.

Next week, she will be hosting an event in Los Angeles for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which she describes as a discussion about "thoughts and ideas on issues of faith and combating poverty".

Appearing on the panel alongside Sarpong and the respected Islamic scholar, Hamza Yusuf, will be none other than the ex-PM himself. It certainly marks yet another coup for Sarpong - described by friends as a genius networker - who started her professional broadcasting career as a receptionist at radio station Kiss 100.

Palin by comparison

When Russell Brand ridiculed the intelligence levels of President George Bush at the MTV Video Music Awards last week, the (largely American) audience found it about as funny finding out that the family nest egg had been entrusted to Lehman Brothers.

The odds are still out, then, on the fate awaiting the controversial US comedian Doug Stanhope over his latest uncouth stunt ahead of his UK tour.

"I'm offering Bristol Palin £25,000 to pay for an abortion," he tells me. "I'm looking or others to donate via a website I set up. I think it's funny as hell but it's serious too. Overpopulation is the biggest single problem facing our planet today. Al Gore even says so in his film."

Booked back on bus

When writer Magnus Mills first heard the news that his debut novel, The Restraint of the Beasts, had been nominated for the Booker Prize , he was still finishing off his SouthLondon bus route.

Since then, Mills has penned four novels. But now, ten years after his original success, he's decided to return to his home turf.

Mills's next novel, which he has recently sold to publishers Bloomsbury, will be called The Arch, the Circus, and The Cross.

Although there's no word yet as to what the storyline involves, I'm told it will be a tale about London bus drivers.

I gather there will have been no shortage of material for the book. Although he quit his old job shortly after being nominated for the Booker, Mills has since returned to driving the bus.

Branson admires Bruni

Sir Richard Branson's 19-year marriage to Joan Templeman – his second wife – is widely regarded as one of the safest unions to grace The Sunday Times Rich List.

But if – God forbid – the billionaire Virgin tycoon does ever find himself back on the singles market, he already seems to have a replacement Lady B to share his estimated £1.57bn fortune with. "I don't know much about the [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy's politics, but he has done well in choosing Carla as his wife," the priapic old smoothie tells this week's Hello! magazine.

"If my wife was to leave me and Carla came on to the scene, I wouldn't turn her down."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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