Kezi Silverstone: Charity Campaigner
Kezi Silverstone has to be one of the hardest working and most dedicated women we have had the privilege to meet.
Kezi is a singer-songwriter, Hollywood musical director, charity campaigner, founder of the Kezi Silverstone Trust and brains behind London Rocks, a glittering fundraising event held annually at the Café de Paris in Leicester Square. She has also somehow managed to find time to establish her own vegetarian food company, a thriving events company and an entertainment management company. This businesswoman and fundraiser takes inspiration to another level! Kezi gives us a lesson on multi-tasking, why raising awareness for the issues about which she is so passionate is equally as important as raising funds, and why this year’s London Rocks will be the best ever…
My Little Black Book: Kezi, we know you are currently eating, drinking and sleeping plans for this year’s London Rocks event. It’s happening on June 5th 2014; why is this one so special?
Kezi Silverstone: Well, London Rocks is always special to me and to the guests who enjoy it so much every year and keep coming back for more! But we are particularly excited to be approaching our 5th anniversary event this year. So 2014’s London Rocks will be even more glittering and fabulous than ever! We will have a red carpet and will be welcoming some very special guests to enjoy the evening with us at the Café de Paris. And we’re delighted to have Lemar and Jahmene Douglas headlining for us this year. They are both incredible vocalists and we know they will give a wonderful performance to our audience on the night.
London Rocks is primarily about increasing awareness for my charity, the Kezi Silverstone Trust, which raises funds and awareness in the fight against the neglect and abuse of children and young people. But it is also a giant party, with wall-to-wall entertainment from some of Europe’s most talented acts. So although there is a serious message behind it, it is about having fun too!
MyLBB: What was the inspiration behind launching London Rocks?
KS: Some years into my work with Barnardo’s (creating awareness for them predominantly), I came up with this ridiculous notion to put on a one off fundraising event (in aid of Barnardo’s and FOAL Farm – an animal sanctuary in Kent, I am their patron) in London which would combine incredible entertainment with a gorgeous glitzy ball type affair. I have always loved staging amazing talent and as co-proprietor of the events company Live & Loud Events (the creators of London Rocks), I have garnered lots of experience in quirky event planning. That was five years ago and here we are today working towards our 5th anniversary! London Rocks now focuses entirely on children’s causes but I still continue my work in animal welfare.
MyLBB: Now, you’ve told us that London Rocks is a “giant party”, but we know it’s really about raising funds and awareness. How does that work on the night and more broadly through the work of the Kezi Silverstone Trust?
KS: London Rocks brings much needed awareness to the Kezi Silverstone Trust’s mission to protect vulnerable children and, for us, this is by far the most valuable aspect of the event. We need people to walk away with the message and pass it on. London Rocks also raises much needed funds. The Trust makes very careful decisions about what individual projects it plans to support throughout the year, and the funds raised at London Rocks form part of the annual fundraising income. This year we will help support Barnardo’s, Young Pioneers (I am also their Ambassador) other small projects, both nationally and regionally, and we will publish all these projects on our web page in the autumn. We also plan to sit down with a charity called ECPAT and make some plans to involve ourselves with their very valuable work, which specialises in child sexual exploitation and trafficking.
MyLBB: One of the most admirable parts of your work is your courage in talking candidly about your own experience of abuse as a child. Could you tell us a little about why the Trust is so important to you personally?
KS: Experiences from childhood can have a lasting impact. Despite how brave and strong you are, some scars never heal. It’s not just the child who suffers; it’s the woman or the man they subsequently become. I spent a vast amount of my life being afraid of people leaving. I would grieve everyone who left whether they were good or bad. I have learned that we shouldn’t concern ourselves too much with the people from our past, there’s a reason why they didn’t make it to our future. Charities like The Kezi Silverstone Trust teach us to value ourselves when others have made it hard to do just that.
I have often been asked what drives me, what fires me with such passion to continue to create awareness for neglected or abused kids? I am a survivor of many childhood years of extreme abuse and despite how hard it is to speak of my experiences, I do so in order to bring attention to the long-term effects of child abuse. Children should be cherished, loved and nurtured. But the harsh reality is that for some children, this will never be. I stand here as proof that you can conquer even the worst experiences and I believe that without charities such as The Kezi Silverstone Trust, those of us who have walked a slightly less charmed path would not survive.
MyLBB: Having already done amazing work for a range of children’s charities, what were the reasons behind you setting up the Trust?
KS: I was approached by Barnardo’s some years ago as they believed me to be a valuable role model. After many years spent raising awareness and funds for various children’s charities (including The Children’s Society, RASASC and Barnardo’s), with the guidance and encouragement of friends and colleagues, I set up my own Trust. I felt the time had come for me to have a more hands on approach with regard to how money raised was spent, and I also wanted the freedom to speak publicly about my causes. It’s not always possible to do so when you are an official spokesperson of other charities because obviously they have their guidelines which need to be closely followed. In a nutshell, I strive to bring awareness to charities and causes that help stop child abuse and who help guide children through adversity.
MyLBB: We are often awash with requests to support a plethora of children’s charities. From a business point of view, what is the Trust’s USP?
KS: The Kezi Silverstone Trust is led by a woman who has experienced many of the challenges, atrocities and fears that the children we help protect have endured. This brings a different kind of compassion and understanding to the table. We also get involved directly with the children and show them first hand that no matter how life started out for them they can turn things around. I use my personal experiences to demonstrate that you can conquer even the worst experiences and pursue your dream. Aptly, Barnardo’s most recent campaign stated that it doesn’t have to end where it started and we believe that The Kezi Silverstone Trust can help children to believe that.
In terms of funding, I believe we have a USP too, in that our role is to raise funds and awareness for charitable causes and valuable children’s projects, but our policy is direct funding. Instead of placing funds with charities and therefore providing the option as to how these funds are spent within their institution, we select individual cases and fund these directly. The decision about what to fund is made with great care and consideration and derived from a list of several projects brought to our attention, or that we personally seek and find.
MyLBB: The media has been full of disturbing stories of abuse and young, vulnerable girls being groomed by paedophile rings recently. How do you hope the Trust will be able to help victims such as these?
KS: Firstly, I’d prefer refer to them as “survivors” rather than “victims”. Yes, they have been victims of some horrendous crimes, but this should not define them. We should think of them as strong young women, who have survived what has happened to them and, in some very brave cases, have been able to report these crimes to responsible adults, be they teachers, family or the police. I would hope that, at the very least, my talking openly about my own experiences of abuse might empower some of the survivors to take some solace in the fact that they are not alone. But in a more practical sense, we are looking to channel some of the money we raise into funding counselling for survivors through organisations such as ECPAT and perhaps telephone help and advice lines for survivors to call and talk to trained staff in complete confidence.
MyLBB: A very important point about referring to those who have suffered abuse as “survivors”. We can all learn something from that. So what does the future hold for the Trust?
KS: It’s an emotional journey for me. I have never felt more passionate about my fight for child protection as I do now I have this concept growing in front of my eyes. I’m so passionate about the future and my dream is to make the charity a nationally recognised organisation.
MyLBB: We need to let you get back to your organising then! But before you do, you’re a fantastic role model and speak about this cause with such passion. How do you juggle being a singer, songwriter, musical director and businesswoman alongside campaigning? What drives you to achieve all these things?
KS: The juggle can be exhausting, but my need to make a difference gives me the energy to make it all work; it truly is my driving force.
Kezi Silverstone really does seem to be the personification of the words ‘role model’. Through her tireless fundraising and drive to raise awareness in the fight against the abuse and neglect of children and young people, she hopes to empower other survivors to seek help, and to bring us all together in her campaign to end the unspoken suffering of so many.