Ashley Banjo: Controversy over Diversity routine shows why it needed to happen

Ashley Banjo has said Diversity’s dance routine, inspired by Black Lives Matter, sparked more of a positive than a negative response.

The Britain’s Got Talent episode featuring the performance was the subject of 15,500 complaints to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

Banjo said, in a video message on Instagram, that the group found the positive reaction – “hundreds of thousands of messages, comments, DMs, and just interactions in the street” – overwhelming.

While “the headlines have been about the complaints and the negativity … the negativity is the minority,” said the Britain’s Got Talent judge, who is standing in for Simon Cowell.

“The positive response has been huge. So thank you so much to everyone who has supported, shown love, and stood by what we did.”

And he added: “We’re feeling positive, happy … proud.

“We stand by every single decision we made with that performance…. I’m proud.”

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Diversity stars Jordan Banjo and brother Ashley (Matt Crossick/PA)</figcaption>
Diversity stars Jordan Banjo and brother Ashley (Matt Crossick/PA)

The “negativity” included “racial abuse” and “threats”, he said, adding: “That reaction shows “exactly why this performance was needed … Racism is very real. I knew it before and I definitely know it now.”

He said the “performance was a round-up of an extraordinary year.

“Everything from lockdown to Covid-19, to the incredible NHS to the spotlight that’s been shone on racism. Everything that happened with George Floyd in America, the protests, the riots – ultimately culminating in the idea of unity, hope, finding a cure.

“It was something we wanted to bring to the stage to give people in hope” but also not shy away from “difficult issues”, he said.

“Black Lives Matter. A lot of people were offended at the political nature of that statement but that’s never what we intended. Black Lives Matter long before … it was anything political. Black Lives Matter is a fact.”

Amanda Holden, who has been promoted to head judge while Cowell recovers from surgery after his electric bike accident, said the show stands by the star.

“The number of negative complaints means that this conversation is right and fundamental and should continue to happen,” she told Good Morning Britain.

“We were inundated with an overwhelming positive response…

“As a BGT family, Diversity is very much part of that family.

“Ashley is doing a phenomenal job on BGT. We just stand by him and stand by that performance 100%.”

The routine led to the second highest number of complaints to Ofcom for a TV show since 2010, after 25,327 were made in 2018 about Celebrity Big Brother when ex-Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallett alleged she had been assaulted by fellow housemate Ryan Thomas.