Press Centre

Ashley Banjo: Britain in Black and White

  • Episode:

    1 of 1

  • Transmission (TX):

    Tue 19 Oct 2021

  • TX Confirmed

    Yes

  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.00pm

  • Week:

    Week 42 2021 : Sat 16 Oct - Fri 22 Oct

  • Channel:

    ITV

  • Published:

    Wed 06 Oct 2021

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Tuesday 12 October 2021.

Ashley Banjo: Britain in Black and White

In the summer of 2020 Ashley Banjo was thrust into the centre of the Black Lives Matter debate. The pro equality routine performed by his group on ITV's Britain's Got Talent last year, one of the most complained about moments in OFCOM’s history, suddenly cast Ashley and his fellow dancers into the political spotlight, and at the centre of a vicious twitter pile on. The lines between entertainment, politics and history blurred.

A year on from that moment and having won a BAFTA as a recognition of the importance of it, Ashley is going on a journey into his own past and into British History to explore the roots of the reaction to his performance.

Ashley says: “ I didn’t set out to become an activist but somehow here I am.” 

“ The first time I saw the George Floyd video, I was in bed, doing my sort of like morning Instagram scroll. I just sat there just gobsmacked at what I was seeing. 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.”

Ashley talks to a wide range of contributors including: Actor David Harewood, Historian David Olusoga, fellow Britain’s Got Talent Judge Alesha Dixon, one of the UK’s most respected activists, Leila Hassan Howe and comedian Jim Davidson.

Part journey of discovery, part intimate biography, Ashley will reveal how race and racism have impacted upon his life and that of his family and friends. Crucially by meeting civil rights trailblazers from modern history, he will also try and understand what it means to take a stand. He’ll get first hand testimony of the perils, positives of taking a stand.

Ashley talks to fellow BGT judge, Alesha Dixon about the performance, who tells him: “ 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.”

She continues: “ 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.”

He meets up with actor David Harewood who says: “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. 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.”

Looking to find the origins of why the routine had such a reaction, Ashley talks to historian David Olusogo, who says: “ 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, kind of, analytical cognitive intelligence.

Adding: “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. “

After the Diversity routine on Britain's Got Talent was aired, comedian Jim Davidson recorded content on his YouTube channel where he slammed the group for using the show platform to get their message across. Ashley meets up with Jim to talk about the issue. 

Ashley Banjo: Britain in Black and White is an Uplands Television production for ITV. The Producer/Director is Stephanie Wessell and the Executive Producers are Eamon Hardy, Mike Smith and David Olusoga. Satmohan Panesar is the Commissioning Editor for ITV Factual Entertainment.