UPDATED: “Britain’s Got Talent” temporary judge Ashley Banjo has revealed he has been subject to racist abuse after his dance troupe Diversity performed a Black Lives Matter-inspired routine on the show.
In a video posted to Instagram on Sunday, Banjo thanked people for the “hundreds of thousands” of support messages, and addressed the issue of racism, noting he has received “everything from racial abuse to threats to just some really nasty stuff that I’m not going to give any more time than it deserves,” said Banjo.
“A lot of the negativity, the nastiness and the racism, shows exactly why this performance was needed and why this conversation that is now risen is necessary. Racism is very real. I knew it before and I definitely know it now,” said the presenter.
The controversy stems from the Sept. 5 episode of “Britain’s Got Talent” on U.K. broadcaster ITV, where Diversity performed a routine, part of which involved Banjo lying on the floor while a fellow dancer dressed in police gear handcuffed him.
The routine drew thousands of complaints to U.K. media regulator Ofcom. By Sept. 10, complaints had surpassed 10,000. On Monday, figures had doubled, with the regulator reporting 21,673 at press time.
Banjo is serving as a temporary judge on the show after creator and host Simon Cowell broke his back in an electric bike accident. Diversity won the show in 2009, beating Susan Boyle in the finals.
Ofcom is in the process of assessing whether to launch an investigation into the routine or not.
Speaking about using “Britain’s Got Talent” as a platform, Banjo said that art is inspired by real life, including politics, which is part and parcel of the discussion in 2020 given the death of George Floyd and the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Racism is real, and as far as we’re concerned, has to change and will not be tolerated, because Black lives matter,” Banjo said.
Following Banjo’s comments, ITV on Tuesday reiterated its support of Diversity’s performance. A spokesperson told Variety, “‘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,” said the spokesperson.