Ashley Banjo insists BGT was RIGHT place for Diversity's BLM message

Ashley Banjo says his controversial Diversity routine on BGT has changed his life for the better as he insists show was the RIGHT place for BLM message

Ashley Banjo has revealed that his controversial routine with Diversity on Britain’s Got Talent last month has altered the direction of his life for the better.

The 32-year-old star and his dance troupe were subject to 24,500 Ofcom complaints after their performance touched on a range of subjects, including Black Lives Matter.

And while he has received relentless criticism for sharing the message on the hit ITV show, Ashley has told GQ Hype in a new interview it was the correct avenue to take, as many before him have spoken openly about issues that affected them.

Life-changing: Ashley Banjo has told GQ Hype that his controversial routine with Diversity on Britain’s Got Talent last month has altered the direction of his life for the better

When he asked about criticism he received for sharing his stance on the show, Ashley responded: ‘What is the right stage?

‘I mean, like, it’s the right stage to talk about, you know, personal loss or patriotism or to bring a beautiful story this year about a dog and the dog trade.

‘We talk about climate change. Yet, if I bring 20 seconds of the idea of racism into performance, all of a sudden it’s not the right stage? And you have to ask why, you know?

‘Why can we talk about a multitude of other issues yet me as a creative and an artist, with something that has affected me, impacted me deeply and also been global news for the past month, I’m not allowed to talk about it? You have to kind of wonder why.’ 

Controversy: Diversity’s dance last month sparked 24,500 complaints, but Ofcom have since announced they will not investigate any further

When asked whether the performance would change the direction of his life, the 2009 BGT winner said: ‘It already has changed the direction of my life, if I’m being honest. I feel more life-affirmed. I feel more sure of myself as a person. 

‘And I also feel proud that we have become a bit of a symbol for something that I want to live up to. 

‘I want to be able to speak up – and not just about racism, not just about the idea of black lives mattering.’

The east London native also touched on the fact that Diversity’s routine is often referred to as a ‘Black Lives Matter performance’, after it briefly featured a police officer kneeling on his neck, recalling the May death of George Floyd.

Range of subjects: The dance routine touched upon a number of subjects, including the invaluable work of the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic

He said: ‘I’m proud for it to be [called that], but it’s really interesting how you coined it our ‘BLM performance’, because it wasn’t.

‘What I find the most incredible thing about all of this is that the Black Lives Matter element of the routine is the part that stuck with people, which, like I said, I can’t reiterate enough how much I’m proud of.

‘But the performance itself was supposed to be a roundup of everything that we felt in the year; a summary of the things that have affected us, from lockdown to Covid to, you know, people standing out in the streets clapping the incredible NHS at 8pm on Thursdays.

‘It was an idea of unity, the idea of hope. And obviously, as part of that routine, it would be impossible to ignore how much the Black Lives Matter movement, the idea of racism coming to the forefront of global attention, is present. 

‘It’s here and it’s right now. So in our summary of the year, it was impossible for me not to reflect upon it.’

Making a statement: ITV rolled out full-page ads in solidarity with Diversity as Ofcom complaints reach 24,500 over the group’s routine

When asked if the significant number of complaints reflected a problem in British society, the star stated: ‘I think a significant problem is an idea of perspective, right?

‘I feel like, to some people, there is a massively significant problem, and to others there is no problem. And it is that spectrum, for me, that’s the problem.

‘You know, I can’t pin it to one specific moment. The idea that there are some people who didn’t even really know that racism still exists – that’s the problem for me.

‘That’s why it’s the right stage. That’s why I’m so passionate about creating these performances. And I’m also really passionate about freedom of speech and about open conversation and opinion.

Decision: A spokesperson for government-approved regulatory body Ofcom confirmed to MailOnline no action will be taken for Diversity’s BLM-inspired routine 

Support: The broadcaster shared a statement on their Twitter page as the furore continued

‘I love this country. That’s why I love living here and that’s one of the beautiful things about living here: the fact that we can all speak our mind.

‘But if the moment I as an artist from a show like Britain’s Got Talent can’t use my four minutes to say what I like and have it come from the heart, and not even say it offensively, but just say [it] honestly and artistically, that’s an issue.’ 

Diversity’s routine during the show’s first semi-final attracted 24,500 complaints to OfCom, who have since announced they will not investigate any further.

TV network ITV has ‘stood with Diversity’ as they featured adverts in national newspapers in support of the controversial dance.

Correct: While he has received relentless criticism for sharing the message on the hit ITV show, Ashley has told GQ Hype it was the correct avenue to take. Pictured on Saturday

ITV are believed to have spent around £260,000 on the newspaper ads with full-page monochrome pieces in The Metro costing £36,461 and £27,700 in The Mirror.

BGT judge Alesha Dixon was one of many who praised ITV for standing by the dance troupe. The singer took to Instagram to share a snap of the advert and gushed over how ‘proud’ she was with them.

Out now: Read Ashley Banjo’s full feature interview on GQ Hype, available now

In her caption, she wrote: ‘Well done @ITV for standing with Diversity! Proud of you! This image is in all of the national newspapers today.’

Ashley also shared his gratitude with ITV for standing by Diversity over their performance.

The poster showed a poignant black and white image of Ashley taking the knee alongside the words: ‘We are changed by what we see. Just as we are changed when we are seen. ITV stand with Diversity.’

Sharing a snap of the same advert, which shows him kneeling in black-and-white, he wrote: ‘This is what change looks like.

‘@ITV stand with @Diversity and we’ve never been prouder. This is in all the national papers today. Thank you again to everyone that has supported us.’

Read Ashley Banjo’s full feature interview on GQ Hype, available now.

BGT judge: Ashley currently serves as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, alongside (L-R) David Walliams, Alesha Dixon, and Amanda Holden

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