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Diversity ‘will star in one-off BGT Christmas special’ after BLM routine received complaints

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Diversity are set to star in a one-off Britain’s Got Talent Christmas special, after complaints about their Black Lives Matter-inspired performance on the show last weekend soared to a record 21,673.

New BGT judge Ashley Banjo and his dance troupe sparked controversy with their performance, which featured the portrayal of a policeman kneeling on Banjo’s neck. 

Now The Sun has claimed the dance group, who won the show in 2009, will front a BGT Christmas special which will see some of the show’s most successful acts return and join forces with one another to impress the audience.   

Comeback: Diversity are set to star in a one-off BGT Christmas special, after complaints about their recent BLM-inspired dance soared to a record 21,673 (Ashley Banjo pictured)

Comeback: Diversity are set to star in a one-off BGT Christmas special, after complaints about their recent BLM-inspired dance soared to a record 21,673 (Ashley Banjo pictured) 

A TV source told the publication that Diversity are ‘top of the wish list’ alongside Susan Boyle and magician Marc Spelmann.

They said: ‘Simon and his team didn’t want to simply do another Champions version so they came up with this twist. 

‘The idea is that they will collaborate and create a unique, one-off performance for fans.  

‘There was talk about creating super-groups — for example, putting together the best dance acts and the best magic acts to compete against one another — but that’s out of the window.

Upcoming: The show will see some of the show's most successful acts return (original judges David Walliams, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell pictured last year)

Upcoming: The show will see some of the show’s most successful acts return (original judges David Walliams, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell pictured last year)

They added the show will be ‘spectacular for fans’ but that the details of putting on the show amid the COVID-19 crisis are still being ironed out.      

MailOnline has contacted representatives for BGT for comment. 

Ofcom complaints following the group’s divisive set reached 21,673 on Monday – and edged closer to becoming the most protested TV moment of the decade. 

The flood of complaints puts the controversial routine just steps behind Celebrity Big Brother’s ‘punchgate’ which received 25,237 objections in 2018, after Roxanne Pallett falsely accused Ryan Thomas of hitting her.  

'That should confuse the racists': On Monday, dancer Ashley, 31, shared a snap of his kids Rose, 18 months, and Micah, five months, and highlighted 'one child is brown and one is white'

‘That should confuse the racists’: On Monday, dancer Ashley, 31, shared a snap of his kids Rose, 18 months, and Micah, five months, and highlighted ‘one child is brown and one is white’

TV personality Ashley, 31, took to social media to ‘lighten the mood’ later in the day as he shared a sweet image of his daughter Rose, 18 months, and son Micah, five months.

Highlighting that ‘one child is brown and one is white’ in a bold message to the naysayers, the choreographer penned: ‘There’s been a lot of negativity recently so I thought I’d lighten the mood with a picture of me completing some dad duties.

‘One child is brown and one is white… That should confuse the racists #diversity #family.’ (sic)

On Friday, an Ofcom spokesperson confirmed to MailOnline that BGT had received 15,500 complaints. Last Monday, the figure stood at 1,121. 

'It's been a lot': The choreographer recently broke his silence about Diversity's routine during the first semi-final, and welcomed the conversation the complaints have started

‘It’s been a lot’: The choreographer recently broke his silence about Diversity’s routine during the first semi-final, and welcomed the conversation the complaints have started

Filling in: Ashley (pictured far right on Saturday) has stepped in as the variety show's latest judge while music mogul Simon, 60, recovers from his back injury

Filling in: Ashley (pictured far right on Saturday) has stepped in as the variety show’s latest judge while music mogul Simon, 60, recovers from his back injury

The representative added: ‘We are assessing the complaints against our broadcasting rules, but are yet to decide whether or not to investigate.’ 

Ashley recently broke his silence about Diversity’s routine during the first semi-final, and welcomed the conversation the complaints have started.

The dancer addressed both the positive and negative response in a candid video 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.

‘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.’

He 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.

The Leytonstone native 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. 

CBB: The complaints are just shy of Celebrity Big Brother's 'punchgate' which received 25,237 objections, after Roxanne Pallett, pictured, falsely accused Ryan Thomas of hitting her

Support: Ryan Thomas, pictured, received an outpouring of support following the shocking incident

CBB: The complaints are just shy of Celebrity Big Brother’s ‘punchgate’ which received 25,237 objections, after Roxanne Pallett, left, falsely accused Ryan Thomas, right, of hitting her

‘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.’

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

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

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 we made for 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.’

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

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

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 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 of the dance.

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)

‘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. 

‘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?

‘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.’

'If you can't handle it Britain, wake up': Piers Morgan furiously spoke out in Diversity's defence on Monday morning

‘If you can’t handle it Britain, wake up’: Piers Morgan furiously spoke out in Diversity’s defence on Monday morning

Explaining that he wanted Diversity’s dance to express the ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ that he and the group have experienced this year, he then addressed the portion of the dance dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement.

‘The bit that was really seemed to connect with people and agitate, annoy and offend people was the fact that we stood up and said that racism is real and as far as we’re concerned it has to change so that we’re tolerant because Black Lives Matter.

‘Now, a lot of people were offended at the political nature of that statement, but that’s never what we intended, black lives mattered long before it was anything political or affiliated with one set of people with a statement.

‘Black Lives Matter is a fact. It is and always will be a fact. That’s what I stand by that’s what every single one of my team proudly standby and that’s why we included it in our summary of 2020.’

Speaking out: Sitting alongside co-host Susanna Reid, Piers told viewers, 'If you can't handle that without feeling the need to never watch BGT again... there's something wrong with you'

Speaking out: Sitting alongside co-host Susanna Reid, Piers told viewers, ‘If you can’t handle that without feeling the need to never watch BGT again… there’s something wrong with you’

He praised how the Black Lives Matter movement has ‘made its way around the world’ and ‘started the conversation’ about racism across the globe.

‘I’m so glad that this performance has almost ignited the spark of that conversation to be continued again,’ he admitted. 

‘The fact that it was a medium like a dance and it was on a show like Britain’s Got Talent in the mainstream is so important. 

‘Families, schools, homes, friends are now having this conversation about something that is very real and affects so many people.

Conversation: Later in the show, the hosts spoke with BGT judge Amanda about the controversy as she promoted her new album

Conversation: Later in the show, the hosts spoke with BGT judge Amanda about the controversy as she promoted her new album

‘I’m proud, I’m happy and like I said I want to say thank you to everyone who supported us. I don’t want this conversation to end.’

Ashley concluded by reiterating his gratitude to followers who have stood by him and Diversity, and he ‘sent love’ to ‘every single one of you that’s thrown positive energy or negative energy at me and the group.’ 

While he has faced a barrage of complains from aggrieved viewers, Ashley has had embraced a strong showing of support among his celebrity friends.

On Monday morning, Piers Morgan furiously spoke out in defence of Diversity’s highly-publicised set.

Comments: She said of the complaints, 'It is extraordinary. I think the number of negative complaints means this conversation is right and fundamental and should continue to happen'

Comments: She said of the complaints, ‘It is extraordinary. I think the number of negative complaints means this conversation is right and fundamental and should continue to happen’

Former BGT judge Piers, 55, told viewers: ‘If you can’t handle that without feeling the need to never watch BGT again or to complain to Ofcom, there’s something wrong with you. You, you’re the problem! You’re part of the problem.’

He added: ‘By the way, if you don’t like me saying this, then don’t watch us either. Don’t watch Good Morning Britain. Because I agree with Ashley Banjo and Diversity. And if you can’t handle it Britain, wake up.’

Later in the show, Piers and co-host Susanna Reid spoke with BGT judge Amanda Holden about the controversy.

She said: ‘It is extraordinary. I think the number of negative complaints means this conversation is right and fundamental and should continue to happen. 

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

‘What hasn’t really been highlighted is the fact that we were inundated with overwhelming positive response, hundreds of thousands of them.

‘As BGT family, and Diversity is very much part of that family, and Ashley is doing a phenomenal job on BGT, we stand by him and stand by that performance 100 per cent.’

The 49-year-old star added of Ashley: ‘He sends out positive vibes to both the haters and the lovers of the piece that they did. He is saddened by negativity.’

It’s not the first time Piers has spoken out in defence of both Ashley and his dance troupe, as he also expressed his feelings on the controversy on social media.

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

Taking to Twitter on Thursday to address the fallout, Piers wrote: ‘I thought it was great. Ignore the haters, Ashley. Proud of you.’ 

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. 

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. 

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, 5.7million viewers tuned into BGT.  

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.

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’

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. 

Singer and judge Alesha 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 musician 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. 

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'

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’

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.’ 

Banjo 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.’  

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'

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’

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!’

Banjo’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. 

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

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

‘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.’ 

She added: ‘Watching this I could not be prouder of my husband. 

‘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.’  

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. 

Pictured: Other celebrities respond

Pictured: Other celebrities respond

 

Pictured: Other celebrities respond

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

Speaking after the performance Banjo told MailOnline: ‘This performance is extremely special to me and the rest of Diversity.  

‘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.’ 

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.

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

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

'My truth, my platform, my art': Ashley addressed the negative response following the performance last week by sharing this statement

‘My truth, my platform, my art’: Ashley addressed the negative response following the performance last week by sharing this statement

Support: Ashley's post was flooded by messages of support from his fellow dancers and celebrity pals

Support: Ashley’s post was flooded by messages of support from his fellow dancers and celebrity pals

Statement: Ashley also wrote last Sunday, just hours after the performance aired, 'So much to say... But I¿ll Just let the performance talk...'

Statement: Ashley also wrote last Sunday, just hours after the performance aired, ‘So much to say… But I’ll Just let the performance talk…’ 

DailyMail Online


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