'Ashley Banjo: Britain In Black And White': the story behind one of the most complained-about moments in TV

·TV Reporter
·6-min read
EMBARGOED PICTURE: FOR PUBLICATION FROM TUESDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2021
From Uplands Television

ASHLEY BANJO: 
BRITAIN IN BLACK AND WHITE
Tuesday 19th October 2021 on ITV 

Pictured: Ashley Banjo

Ashley Banjo goes on a journey to explore the negative reaction to his dance on BritainÕs Got Talent. He meets supporters like actor David Harewood and challenges critics like comedian Jim Davidson.

(C)  Uplands Television

For further information please contact Peter Gray
peter.gray@itv.com  

This photograph is © Uplands Television and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the  programme ASHLEY BANJO: 
BRITAIN IN BLACK AND WHITE or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website https://www.itv.com/presscentre/itvpictures/terms
Ashley Banjo explores the criticism and support of his BLM dance. (Uplands Television)

Ashley Banjo and his dance group Diversity created one of the most talked-about TV moments ever when they paid tribute to George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement on Britain's Got Talent last summer.

But the moving routine they created polarised opinion and even left Banjo worried for his own security as debate over the performance escalated.

Read more: Britain's Got Talent is most complained-about TV show of 2020

In Ashley Banjo: Britain In Black And White, an ITV documentary to mark Black History Month, Banjo explores the controversy and why it brought out such differing views. Here's what to know.

When can I see Ashley Banjo: Britain In Black And White?

You can see the documentary on Tuesday 19 October at 9pm on ITV and it will be available on the ITV Hub afterwards.

What was the controversy over Diversity's BLM dance routine?

Diversity paid tribute to George Floyd. (ITV)
Diversity paid tribute to George Floyd. (ITV)

In summer 2020, Diversity were on the bill to perform at Britain's Got Talent, the show they found fame on by winning in 2009.

Diversity choreographed and performed an emotional tribute to George Floyd, who had recently been killed by a US police officer. 

The routine also highlighted the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained pace in the wake of Floyd's death.

But while many viewers found the dance moving and poignant, others complained it should not have been included in a light entertainment show. Some targeted Banjo and his co-stars with abuse and threats on social media.

Banjo told This Morning: "There have been a lot of different arguments thrown at me and Diversity about why we shouldn't have performed, but every single time I say, if we are talking about the issues, that's why we should have done it."

He added: "It's not like light entertainment shows don't deal with issues like grief and politics and war, people talk about all sorts on those shows and dance and art are inherently linked to things that cause distress.

Read more: Ashley Banjo says BLM routine caused divisions in his own family

"What's hard is the minute you talk about things that are a bit controversial, 'oh, we don't want that at the dinner table'. Then people don't want to hear it. 

"It's not racism directly, but we live in a time when we have to be anti-racist and we have to try to stand up and say this isn't right, and make a difference."

The dance eventually won Diversity a Bafta for the must-see moment, which they dedicated to all those who had supported their routine.

One of those supporters was Britain's Got Talent judge Alesha Dixon, who appears in Banjo's documentary.

Alesha Dixon fronted both series of the BBC show 'The Greatest Dancer' alongside Diversity member Jordan Banjo. (Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)
Alesha Dixon speaks about her feelings on seeing the dance. (Tabatha Fireman/Getty Images)

She says of the dance: "It floored me. Yeah, absolutely floored me. I couldn't even... I mean, I'm so glad the camera never saw my face. I was crying like a baby, like I’ve never cried on TV before.

“This is a reflection of how we’re all feeling – the whole year building up to that moment where everybody was allowed out but we’re carrying with us the emotional scars of what we’ve experienced as a community. 

"And in a way, it was all bubbling to the surface. But no one could have predicted what was going to come next.

"I feel like the routine was just the beginning of this new chapter, I think now that lid has been lifted, you cannot avoid it. 

"The conversations have to happen. You’ve put yourself in the firing line once. And I think this is the moment now where you act on that and you take it to the next level.”

What happens in the documentary?

EMBARGOED PICTURE: FOR PUBLICATION FROM TUESDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2021
From Uplands Television

ASHLEY BANJO: 
BRITAIN IN BLACK AND WHITE
Tuesday 19th October 2021 on ITV 

Pictured: Ashley Banjo

Ashley Banjo goes on a journey to explore the negative reaction to his dance on BritainÕs Got Talent. He meets supporters like actor David Harewood and challenges critics like comedian Jim Davidson.

(C)  Uplands Television

For further information please contact Peter Gray
peter.gray@itv.com  

This photograph is © Uplands Television and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the  programme ASHLEY BANJO: 
BRITAIN IN BLACK AND WHITE or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website https://www.itv.com/presscentre/itvpictures/terms
Ashley Banjo reflects on the effects of his dance. (Uplands Television)

Banjo sets out to discover the range of reactions to Diversity's dance and the history that has led to such polarised opinions.

He told This Morning: “I didn’t set out to become an activist, but somehow here I am."

Talking about his own reasons for wanting to create the dance, he explained what he felt when he saw footage of US officer Derek Chauvin, now jailed, kneeling on Floyd's neck.

Read more: Ashley Banjo among stars offering support to Harry and Meghan

He said: "I just saw my dad. We were consistently pulled over in our area as a family, you know, at least once every two weeks. 

"It just sparked something in me. It just ignited something. 

"It was at that moment, I was like, whatever happens, I'm going to speak up about this."

While there are plenty of supporters of Diversity's work who speak to Banjo in Britain In Black And White, he didn't want to stick to just those who agreed with him.

Banjo told This Morning: "I genuinely wanted to learn, was I wrong? I know I wasn't, I know that in my heart, but I wanted to sit back and listen and learn."

EMBARGOED PICTURE: FOR PUBLICATION FROM TUESDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2021
From Uplands Television

ASHLEY BANJO: 
BRITAIN IN BLACK AND WHITE
Tuesday 19th October 2021 on ITV 

Pictured; Ashley Banjo with activist Leila Hassan Howe

Ashley Banjo goes on a journey to explore the negative reaction to his dance on BritainÕs Got Talent. He meets supporters like actor David Harewood and challenges critics like comedian Jim Davidson.

(C)  Uplands Television

For further information please contact Peter Gray
peter.gray@itv.com  

This photograph is © Uplands Television and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the  programme ASHLEY BANJO: 
BRITAIN IN BLACK AND WHITE or ITV. Once made available by the ITV Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the Transmission date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website https://www.itv.com/presscentre/itvpictures/terms
Ashley Banjo reflects on the coverage of his performance. (Uplands Television)

He added: "I want to hear both sides of the argument. People don't hold back in this doc, they tell me exactly what they think."

One of those people is entertainer Jim Davidson, who shared material on YouTube in the wake of the performance to criticise Diversity, and who storms out of an interview with Banjo during the documentary.

Actor David Harewood also appears, saying: “The pressure of having this tone of skin is massive. It put me in a mental institution. 

"When I came out of drama school the world said to me, you’re Black, you’re Black, you play Black parts, you go for Black auditions, you don’t go play this, you play that. 

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 20: David Harewood attends Entertainment Weekly's Comic-Con Bash held at FLOAT, Hard Rock Hotel San Diego on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California sponsored by HBO. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly)
David Harewood speaks about the effects of racism on his life. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly)

"I suddenly realised, oh, I’m not going to be James Bond. I’m not going to be the hero, saving the girl, getting the money, driving the car. I’m not going to be the hero."

Historian David Olusogo also gives his views on what caused the strong reaction, saying: "I think it gets to the heart of the forms of racism we inherited from the 18th and 19th centuries. 

"What those forms of racism said was Black people did have some qualities, that Black people could be physical, they could be strong, they could be athletic. What you couldn’t do was have analytical, cognitive intelligence.

"When people say stick to what you know, just be a dancer, what they’re saying is, I’m comfortable with the structural racism of the society I live in. I’m comfortable with you in this box. I’ll celebrate you in this box. 

"But that’s the limit of who you are because of your skin colour."

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