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Ashley Banjo received 'racial abuse and threats' after BGT performance


Ashley Banjo has broken his silence about Diversity’s Black Lives Matter routine during Britain’s Got Talent’s first semi-final last week.

The dancer, 31, took to Instagram to share a video on Sunday in which he addressed both the positive and negative response, as he revealed he and the group have been the target of ‘racial abuse and threats’ following the dance. 

In the statement, he said: ‘It’s been a lot, everything from racial abuse to threats, to just some really nasty stuff. I’m not going to give light to it, I’m not going to give it any more time than it deserves 

Candid: Ashley Banjo revealed on Sunday he and Diversity have been the target of 'racial abuse and threats' following the group's controversial BLM routine on Britain's Got Talent

Candid: Ashley Banjo revealed on Sunday he and Diversity have been the target of ‘racial abuse and threats’ following the group’s controversial BLM routine on Britain’s Got Talent

‘But a lot of the negativity, the nastiness, and the racism shows exactly why these performances and exactly why this conversation that has arisen is so necessary. 

‘Racism is very real, I’ve known it before and I definitely know it now.

Ashley originally began his video by thanking those who had supported Diversity and had shared positive messages and well wishes, even mentioning those who had checked in on the members mental well being during the aftermath of the routine. 

Negative response: In the statement, he said: 'It's been a lot, everything from racial abuse to threats, to just some really nasty stuff. I'm not going to give light to it'

Negative response: In the statement, he said: ‘It’s been a lot, everything from racial abuse to threats, to just some really nasty stuff. I’m not going to give light to it’

Ashley said: ‘Firstly I want to say thank you to all the people who are supportive of me and Diversity’s performance, who’ve reached out.

‘Honestly it’s overwhelming the positive reaction to what we did. Hundreds of thousands of messages, comments, DMs and interactions in the street.

‘There’s been what 15-16,000 complaints of negativity thrown back at the performance, but trust me I’m right in the centre of it and the negativity is in the minority.

‘The positive response has been huge so thank you so much everyone who has supported and shown love, stood by what we did.’  

Seeing the positive: Ashley said, 'The negativity, the nastiness, and the racism shows exactly why these performances and exactly why this conversation that has arisen is so necessary'

Seeing the positive: Ashley said, ‘The negativity, the nastiness, and the racism shows exactly why these performances and exactly why this conversation that has arisen is so necessary’

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He added: ‘Everyone who reached out who checked if we were alright, thank you to you as well. 

‘We are good though, we are feeling positive, proud, happy confident and we stand by every single decision that made that performance.

‘If I’m honest with you to be able to stand on the very stage that launched Diversity into the limelight as a judge on the panel, standing up for something, using our art to spark nationwide conversation, what more could I ask for as a creative and an artist?

‘To entertain, to get people talking, to cause emotion, that is everything I could have asked for so I am proud and like I said I stand by it so thank you to everyone showing their positivity.’ 

Grateful: Ashley originally began his video by thanking those who had supported Diversity and had shared positive messages and well wishes

Grateful: Ashley originally began his video by thanking those who had supported Diversity and had shared positive messages and well wishes

Sharing his decision to remain positive in the face of racist trolls, he went on: ‘After this performance everything that we’ve seen, I don’t know, it’s been overwhelmingly negative sometimes, which is tough.

‘But still, like I said, [I’m] standing strong and feeling so happy with what we’ve done, if that’s what it takes that’s a price I’m absolutely willing to pay.’

Ashley then described the dance routine in full, stipulating that Diversity were giving a ‘summary of 2020’ with their performance and tackling topics like lockdown, COVID-19, the NHS, George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement.

‘It was layered, it was something we wanted to bring to the stage to bring hope but also not to shy away from difficult conversations and difficult issues that have arisen,’ he said. 

Positive: Ashley thanks those asking after their well being, and added: 'We are feeling positive, proud, happy confident and we stand by every single decision that made that performance'

Positive: Ashley thanks those asking after their well being, and added: ‘We are feeling positive, proud, happy confident and we stand by every single decision that made that performance’

‘That’s exactly why the question whether Britain’s Got Talent was the right platform was one that i just can’t get on board with,’ he said of criticism the group has received recently. 

‘If an artist or creative can’t use real world issues, universal issues, to inspire their art and come through how they express them then what’s the point?’ 

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‘Britain’s Got Talent has been a stage for so many incredible performers, artists and talents who want to express all different kinds of emotions and views, and stories, human ones.

‘Of course political ideas are going to work into performances because it affects us every single day, universal things that affect us, that is what art is; it’s an expression of how we feel and this set of 2020 is exactly that.’

Britain’s Got Talent’s second semi-final pulled in 4.95 million viewers, just a week after its first show sparked backlash from viewers.

The ITV show has been embroiled in controversy after Diversity took to the stage with a Black Lives Matter-inspired performance, sparking over 15,000 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom.

Despite the controversy BGT only saw a decrease of 350,000 viewers on the previous week’s show when it returned to screens on Saturday. 

Still going strong: Britain's Got Talent's second semi-final pulled in 4.95 million viewers, just a week after its first show sparked backlash from viewers (Ashley pictured)

Still going strong: Britain’s Got Talent’s second semi-final pulled in 4.95 million viewers, just a week after its first show sparked backlash from viewers (Ashley pictured)

The numbers were still a strong showing for BGT, as it received more than double the viewership of its main rival in the slot, The Last Night of the Proms, which has faced its own controversy and only drew in 2.1 million viewers.

At its peak on Saturday, 5.7m viewers tuned into BGT. 

The event has faced backlash from viewers after BBC said that the controversial British anthems Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia would be performed without lyrics because they have ‘imperialist ties.’

However, the corporation made a dramatic U-turn following a heated debate and widespread anger over the decision.

Shocking: The ITV show has been embroiled in controversy after Diversity took to the stage with a Black Lives Matter-inspired performance, sparking over 15,000 complaints

Shocking: The ITV show has been embroiled in controversy after Diversity took to the stage with a Black Lives Matter-inspired performance, sparking over 15,000 complaints

Good result: BGT still received more than double the viewership of its main rival in the slot, The Last Night of the Proms, which also faced weeks of controversy

Good result: BGT still received more than double the viewership of its main rival in the slot, The Last Night of the Proms, which also faced weeks of controversy

Last week’s BGT pulled in 5.3 million viewers, as the show returned to screens after the semi-finals were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in the show’s 13-year history, the semis have been pre-recorded, with the second show being filmed two weeks ago, before Diversity’s BLM performance aired.

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Despite this Ashley appeared to hit back at the criticism as he entered the studio to Elton John’s hit song I’m Still Standing in a defiant display.

Defiant: On Saturday Ashley appeared to hit back at the criticism as he entered the studio to Elton John's hit song I'm Still Standing

Defiant: On Saturday Ashley appeared to hit back at the criticism as he entered the studio to Elton John’s hit song I’m Still Standing

Back to business: Last week's BGT pulled in 5.3 million viewers, as the show returned to screens after the semi-finals were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Back to business: Last week’s BGT pulled in 5.3 million viewers, as the show returned to screens after the semi-finals were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Ashley’s group Diversity, which won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, performed the routine last week which narrated the death of George Floyd, who was killed when police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes in May.

The routine was met with a flurry of mixed responses from viewers, with some calling out the display as making a ‘political statement’ and others hailing the dance ‘powerful’. 

The performance has so-far sparked 15,500 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom.

Planning: For the first time in the show's 13-year history, the semis have been pre-recorded, with the second show being filmed two weeks ago, before Diversity's BLM performance aired

Planning: For the first time in the show’s 13-year history, the semis have been pre-recorded, with the second show being filmed two weeks ago, before Diversity’s BLM performance aired

It comes after Alesha singer Dixon told critics to ‘kiss my black a**’ as she threw her support behind her Britain’s Got Talent co-judge Banjo in the wake of the controversy surrounding the performance.

The singer waded into the ongoing row about the politicisation of the ITV1 talent series as Banjo shared a post on Instagram from a critic telling him to keep politics out of entertainment after the BLM-inspired dance was broadcast on BGT.

Dixon commented ‘they can kiss my black a**’ under an Instagram post from a disgruntled social media user, who said: ‘We the Great British Public will only support you if you entertain us and do not say anything about racism.’ 

Memorable: Diversity's BLM performance was met with mixed responses, with some calling out the display as making a 'political statement' and others hailing the dance as 'powerful'

Memorable: Diversity’s BLM performance was met with mixed responses, with some calling out the display as making a ‘political statement’ and others hailing the dance as ‘powerful’



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