Diversity star Ashley Banjo has spoken out to reveal a defiant message supporting change ahead of his Britain’s Got Talent return tonight.
The star, 31, will return as a judge to the hit ITV show after fielding a barrage of abuse from some viewers over a controversial performance from his dance troupe.
Ashley led the stars of Diversity in a dramatic retelling of some of the biggest news events of the year – including the killing of George Floyd – for a routine aired on the first BGT semi-final on September 5.
Since then, the episode has received more than 24,000 complaints to regulator Ofcom and is on the way to becoming the most protested TV event of the decade.
Not to be beaten down by the mounting complaints or by what he has called ‘racist’ abuse on social media, Banjo took to Instagram hours before his live TV return to share an important message.
Alongside a shot of himself taking the knee in the routine in the dance – as a homage to the Black Lives Matter movement – Ashley penned: “This is what change looks like.”
“Thank you again to everyone that has supported us. #Diversity ”
The black and white picture carried the slogan: “We are changed by what we see. Just as we are changed when we are seen.”
Underneath was written: “ITV stands by Diversity.”
The move doubles down on the statement released from ITV earlier this week where the broadcaster positioned themselves on Diversity’s defence despite viewer complaints soaring above 20k and a drop in ratings following the performance.
Former BGT winners Diversity were caught up in a media storm after their Black Lives Matter inspired routine on the talent show poloarised viwers.
The performance included a moment where a white police officer appeared to kneel on Banjo’s neck while his fellow dancers took pictures, as a reference to the killing of George Flloyd in America in May.
Ashley said that while he had received some criticism for the performance online, the hate was nothing compared to the positive reviews he’d been sent.
He also claimed that the backlash showed him how much the conversation he and his Diversity pals sparked needed to be had.
TV also backed the stand-in judge and his troupe, saying BGT had always been a show that supports diversity and inclusivity.
An ITV spokesman: “Britain’s Got Talent has always been an inclusive show, which showcases diversity and supports strong storytelling in all forms and ITV stands behind the decision to broadcast Diversity’s performance on BGT.
“Ashley and the group are a great example of the talent, creativity and diversity of modern Britain and their performance was an authentic, heartfelt response to many of the issues and events which have affected society in 2020.”
Despite the complaints almost surpassing Ofcom’s most complained about TV event, the watchdog have said they will not be investigating the performance as it does not breach guidelines.
The ruling on the website stated: “Ofcom received approximately 24,500 complaints about the above programme. Complainants outlined a range of concerns about Diversity’s performance, including that the themes of violence and racism were inappropriate for family viewing, that it expressed support for the political organisation ‘Black Lives Matter’ and that it was racist towards White people.
“Ofcom also received a number of messages of support and praise for the performance. Ofcom has assessed this programme against the relevant rules in the Broadcasting Code (“the Code”).
“Our assessment is that this programme did not raise any issues which warranted investigation. In our view, Diversity’s performance was an artistic expression of topical social issues and did not contain any content which was racist, unsuitably violent or otherwise inappropriate in the context of this programme.
“Given the significant publicity surrounding this case and the high volume of complaints received, we have decided to publish our reasons for this assessment.”
Britain’s Got Talent returns tonight on ITV at 8pm