Ashley Banjo entered the Britain’s Got Talent studio to Elton John’s hit song I’m Still Standing in a defiant display tonight – amid fury over his Black Lives Matter dance routine which prompted 15,000 Ofcom complaints.
The dancer, 31, appeared to hit back at criticism of the controversial Diversity performance as he stepped onstage during the second semi-final of the ITV talent show alongside Simon Cowell, David Walliams and Alesha Dixon.
Banjo’s dance group Diversity, which won the third series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, performed a routine last weekend which narrated the death of George Floyd, who was killed when police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for eight minutes in May.
Mr Floyd had gasped ‘I can’t breathe’ as he was restrained by Chauvin, and his death triggered global outrage and explosive protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The performance has so-far sparked 15,500 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom, with critics claiming the dance had politicised the entertainment show. One Twitter user insisted: ‘They are a dance group not a political movement.’
‘I’m Still Standing!’: BGT judge Ashley Banjo entered to Elton John’s hit in defiant display on Saturday’s show as OfCom complaints about Diversity’s BLM routine soared to 15,500
Speaking of the routine tonight, Banjo told co-hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly that he ‘loved’ both performing and judging on the show, after they asked him how he felt following his first week on the panel.
He said: ‘I loved it, I loved being on this side of the desk but you guys got me up there as well. So it’s my first week where I get to sit back and enjoy the show.’
An Ofcom spokesperson confirmed to MailOnline on Friday afternoon that BGT has received 15,500 complaints so far. On Monday, the figure stood at 1,121.
The representative added: ‘We are assessing the complaints against our broadcasting rules, but are yet to decide whether or not to investigate.’
Social media users took note of BGT’s use of the Elton John classic, with one viewer writing: ‘Loving Britain’s Got Talent’s support of Ashley Banjo. Absolutely the best.’
Another said: ‘Ashley Banjo – so pleased to see him on BGT again, still smiling’
‘Ashley Banjo still standing. Love it!’ added a third.
Others commented on hosts Ant and Dec’s monologue about the dancer’s achievements at the beginning of the show. One Twitter user wrote: ‘The boys bigging up @AshleyBanjo at the very start of the show speaks volumes, bloody brilliant, that was to all the haters.’
However, some critics asked why Banjo hadn’t apologised for the routine which polarised viewers last Saturday.
‘Not even an apology from Banjo for last week’s fiasco of a “dance” routine which promoted a false impression of all police as racists,’ one user said. ‘Not setting a good example to young people… not a very positive message.’
Defiant: After making his way on stage Ashley happily told co-hosts Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly that he ‘loved’ both performing and judging on the show last week
Social media users were divided tonight as they reacted to Ashley Banjo’s return to the Britain’s Got Talent judge’s chair
The flood of Ofcom complaints come after reports judges David Walliams and Alesha Dixon had a war of words after the singer told him his Little Britain antics were ‘inappropriate’.
The TV star, 41, is believed to have made the comments in jest, however according to the Sun David, 49, was upset and left the studio as soon as filming was over.
David’s old Little Britain characters included black woman Desiree DeVere and bearded transvestite Emily Howard.
The spat allegedly began during the deliberation stages of the show, and a source revealed: ‘When the artist who Alesha had backed got through she basically turned to David and said, ‘Well that’s payback for all your inappropriate Little Britain antics.’
‘It was quite catty, although Alesha later insisted she was only joking. But David was stunned. Obviously he is not racist or homophobic, or anything-phobic in the slightest — he was upset.
‘Words were exchanged, and the rest of filming was pretty awkward.’
Awks! The OfCom complaints come after reports judges David Walliams and Alesha Dixon had a war of words after the singer told him his Little Britain antics were ‘inappropriate’
Despite the awkward exchange it has been claimed that neither party has held a grudge and they remain pals.
An insider revealed that Alesha has insisted that her comments to David were only made as a joke.
MailOnline contacted representatives for David, Alesha and BGT at the time.
In June, David Walliams and his Little Britain co-star Matt Lucas apologised for their use of blackface after the series was removed from streaming services.
In a joint statement the pair insisted it was ‘wrong’ to portray characters of other races, but reiterated it’s something they have apologised for in the past.
Claims: The TV star is believed to have made the comments in jest, however according to the Sun David, 49, was upset and left the studio as soon as filming was over
This comes after Alesha told critics to ‘kiss my black a**’ as she threw her support behind her Britain’s Got Talent co-judge Ashley 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.
Alesha 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.’
Divisive: Diversity’s routine, which narrated the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in May, had already polarised fans of the talent show on Saturday night due to its political stance
The comment referred to the BLM-inspired dance which has sparked more than 15,000 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom when it was performed on Britain’s Got Talent on Saturday night.
Critics claimed the dance, which was a ‘take on the unprecedented events of 2020’, had politicised the entertainment show, with one Twitter user insisting ‘they are a dance group not a political movement.’
The full post – which also referred to boxer Anthony Joshua and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton – read: ‘Dear Joshua, Hamilton, Banjo and any other black public figures.
New figures: An Ofcom spokesperson confirmed to MailOnline on Friday afternoon that Britain’s Got Talent has received 15,500 complaints so far. On Monday the figure stood at 1,121
‘We the Great British Public will only support you if you entertain us and do not say anything about racism. Thank you for your understanding.’
Ashley shared a screenshot of a message written by a critic to his Instagram, and said in the caption: ‘1. You do not represent or speak for the Great British public.
‘2. Silence was never and will never be an option. 3. Change is inevitable… Get used to it.’
Alesha wasn’t the only celebrity to throw her support behind Ashley, as fellow Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden commented with a heart emoji.
JLS star Aston Merrygold added: ‘It’s like that yeah! Guess it’s time to speak louder for the people that can’t quite hear!’
Supportive: The new figure comes after Alesha Dixon told critics to ‘kiss my black a**’ as she threw her support behind her Britain’s Got Talent co-judge Ashley
Support: The singer, 41, waded into the ongoing row as Banjo, 31, shared a post on Instagram from a critic telling him to keep politics out of entertainment
Ashley’s wife Francesca took to social media to share her own thoughts on the negative reaction from some viewers, saying ‘shying away from issues’ is not the answer.
Sharing clips from the performance, she wrote; ‘On Saturday @ashleybanjogram and @diversityofficial performed this routine on @bgt, 11 years after winning the show. To call this a ‘dance routine’ is an understatement to say the least.
‘This piece was a take on the unprecedented events of 2020, from Covid 19 to BLM, from clapping for carers as a nation to coming together in our own families and finding the light in the darkest of times.
‘Some may find this uncomfortable, may feel it inappropriate, but shying away from issues is not going to bring about the change that is so long overdue.’
Francesca went on: ‘Watching this I could not be prouder of my husband.
Calling it out: Ashley posted a comment from one troll who referred to him, Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton, and said they shouldn’t ‘say anything about racism’
Response: Ashley wrote back, ‘1. You do not represent or speak for the Great British public. 2. Silence was never and will never be an option. 3. Change is inevitable… Get used to it’
Encouragement: Alesha wasn’t the only celebrity to throw her support behind Ashley, as Amanda Holden, Ashley’s brother Jordan, Judi Love, and Aston Merrygold also commented
‘Rose and Micah will watch this and when they are old enough to understand they will be proud that their Dad created something so poignant and used his voice to stand up for what is right. We are one race, the human race.’
On Thursday, Diversity’s performance became the second most complained about TV moment of the past 10 years.
Ofcom complaints reached over 10,000 knocking the Kim Woodburn/Coleen Nolan argument – which took place on Loose Women in 2018 – off the second spot with only 7,912 complaints.
The first remains the Celebrity Big Brother ‘punchgate’ – also in 2018 – which saw Roxanne Pallett wrongly accuse Ryan Thomas of hitting her. This garnered 25,327 complaints.
Reaction: Ashley’s wife Francesca also took to social media to share her own thoughts on the negative reaction from some viewers, saying ‘shying away from issues’ is not the answer
Proud wife: Francesca wrote, ‘Some may find this uncomfortable, may feel it inappropriate, but shying away from issues is not going to bring about the change that is so long overdue’
His brother and co-star Jordan Banjo got teary as he discussed the ‘horrible’ messages the group have received on his Wednesday KISS radio show.
Talking about the Ofcom complaints and ‘horrible’ messages the group have received from trolls, Jordan fought back tears on his Wednesday KISS radio show with co-dancer Perri Kiely.
Perri started by saying: ‘On Saturday we performed with Diversity on Britain’s Got Talent.
‘Our performance covered the events of this year and the appalling messages that need to be spoken about.’
To which Jordan added: ‘Of course you get some critiques but normally it’s focused on the dance. But this one was different, it was really important, it was special to us.
Topical: Diversity’s routine, which narrated the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd in May, had already polarised fans on Saturday night due to its overtly political stance
‘We are all about positivity and love and we got so much positivity and love back from this one.’
Jordan said that the group has been ‘bombarded’ with messages, he continued: ‘Horrible stuff about us, about our families, about how even now Diversity not diverse enough because there’s only five white people in it.’
The star’s voice then broke as he fought back tears and added: ‘I can’t speak for anyone else it’s sad, it’s sad, genuinely.
‘I feel anxious and worried saying something like Black Lives Matter when that’s all we want, love and positivity, no one is saying only Black Lives Matter.’
Perri, 24, also told a troll to ‘bin’ themselves after they hit out at the group on Twitter.
He put: ‘Bin yourself,’ followed by a waste basket and added: ‘I can’t believe the replies to this… apparently these people are adults!?Go educate yourselves.’
It comes after lead dancer, choreographer and guest judge Ashley defended his group’s performance, calling it ‘his art’ in a previous statement posted to Instagram.
He wrote: ‘Art: The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. My truth, my platform, my art.
‘I’ve always tried to create not only to entertain but also to inspire… That will never change.’
Ashley then referenced a Martin Luther King Jr quote as he revealed he was both ‘grateful’ and ‘overwhelmed’ by the support.
He continued: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’ – Martin Luther King Jr.
‘I’m so grateful and overwhelmed by all of the love and support but also by the amount of conversation this performance has thrown up 2020 has been such a historical year.
‘One day we will look back and realise it was the start of real change… Sending out nothing but love and positivity to everyone reading this post #wearediversity.’
Ashley’s post was flooded by messages of support from his fellow dancers and celebrity pals.
His brother, Jordan, 27, put: ‘Proud.’ Perri, 24, wrote: ‘Nah I’m so gassed to be a part of this.’
Ashley Roberts, 38, said: ‘Loved this performance!!’ Strictly Come Dancing professional, Neil Jones, 38, added: ‘For me it was powerful.’
Ashley also wrote on Sunday, just hours after the performance aired: ‘So much to say… But I’ll Just let the performance talk. Thousands of messages of Love and support – Thank you.
‘For the thousands of messages of hate and ignorance – Thank you. You highlight exactly what needs to change. Sending nothing but love to you all #Diversity.’
Support: Ashley’s post was flooded by messages of support from his fellow dancers and celebrity pals
Statement: Ashley also wrote on Sunday, just hours after the performance aired: ‘So much to say… But I’ll Just let the performance talk…’
The former Britain’s Got Talent champions opened Saturday’s performance by reciting a viral poem The Great Realisation by the singer Tomfoolery, about the BLM movement and police brutality.
During their performance the group also illustrated the death of Floyd, who lost his life after police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25 for nearly nine minutes.
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’.
One user wrote: ‘Disgraceful! Make political statements elsewhere not on a family TV show.’
Routine: The former Britain’s Got Talent champions opened Saturday’s performance by reciting a viral poem The Great Realisation by the singer Tomfoolery, about the BLM movement and police brutality
While another commented: ‘Wrong time and place. BGT should be a lovely entertainment show not political. I had thoroughly enjoyed the show and forgot the troubles of the world and then thud!
‘So disappointed though AB was a great judge and there was no need for his performance.’
Another person added: ‘I had enjoyed it until then and switched off. It is a talent show not a politics show.’
Meanwhile another fan wrote: ‘So disappointed this was a political performance. Didn’t expect it on BGT. Not the right performance.’
During their performance, the dance group, who were dressed in riot gear, recited a viral poem about the BLM movement before going on to show a policemen placing a hand over Banjo’s throat as he lay on the ground to the song I Can’t Breathe.
Speaking after the performance Banjo told MailOnline: ‘This performance is extremely special to me and the rest of Diversity.
Upsetting: The new figures come after dancer and brother of Ashley Banjo, Jordan, 27, got teary as he discussed the ‘horrible’ messages the group have received on his KISS radio show on Wednesday
‘2020 has been an incredible moment in history for both positive and negative reasons.
‘We wanted to use the platform we’ve been given to make our voices heard, express how the events of this year have made us feel and think about how we might look back on them in the future… We call it hindsight 2020.’
Other viewers praised the group and BGT bosses for depicting the issue.
One wrote: ‘Prime time Saturday night TV and dance group Diversity performed a routine inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement which featured a police officer kneeling on member Ashley’s Banjo’s neck. Powerful.’
While another viewer added: ‘What an incredible performance from Diversity- a really brave and meaningful way to keep the message out there! I’m really happy to see such diversity within the team now, too! Awesome!’
Another fan commented: ‘Damn! Diversity on BGT last night was the best thing I’ve ever seen, was so moving and put their story across brilliantly. Brought a tear to the eye! Amazing!’
Speaking out: Some viewers took to social media to argue that the performance was a political statement which was not for a family show
Another penned: ‘Wow @Diversity_Tweet just wow! Such a powerful important message and done in such a perfect way!’
While another added: ‘That performance by @Diversity_Tweet was absolutely amazing well done very powerful @AshleyBanjo is phenomenal at pulling routines together.’
Following the death of Floyd earlier this year thousands across the globe took to the streets calling for the officers involved to be jailed for their crime.
Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged in June with second-degree murder while officers Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – were also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
During Saturday’s show, Ashley stepped in for Simon Cowell after he was forced to miss the semi-finals due to a back injury.
Cowell was forced to pull out after breaking his back in a cycling accident, and after a six-hour operation has been recovering at home.
The music mogul has insisted producers have made the show the best it can be despite social distancing now being in place – and has even hinted he will indeed appear at the live final in October, despite being on bed rest.
This year marks the first time in BGT history that the semi-finals have been pre-recorded, and has also seen changes to the way acts will advance to the final.
Eight contestants will perform in each semi-final and the judges will choose one act to go through. The second finalist will then be chosen via public vote when the episode airs.
With safety concerns paramount, some acts will take part remotely via video link whilst others will perform in the TV studio – with the virtual audiences’ reactions then beamed into the studio on a giant screen.
The series will then culminate with the live final, in October, where one act will triumph as Britain’s Got Talent 2020 Champion and win the life-changing £250,000 prize plus a coveted role on The Royal Variety Performance.
Stunning: Meanwhile other Britain’s Got Talent fans hailed the performance as ‘powerful’ and ‘amazing’