A powerful Black Lives Matter-inspired performance by dance group Diversity has been nominated for a BAFTA, despite it sparking thousands of angry viewers to break the Ofcom complaints record.
The performance showed dancer Ashley Banjo acting out being arrested by a white police officer who, in a reenactment of the death of George Floyd earlier this year, kneeled on his neck while bandmates cried out, “I can’t breathe”.
Furious viewers quickly took to social media, with many accusing ITV producers of “politicising” Britain’s Got Talent – and 24,5000 people complaining to the watchdog, which said it wouldn’t investigate the routine.
Earlier this month Banjo, 32, revealed that his own father was worried that he would jeopardise his career by following through with the performance.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said: “We had millions of eyes on us. I wanted to portray what was going on in the world. Afterwards, I got around one hundred abusive tweets in a minute.
“We learnt that it’s OK to tell stories about climate change or the NHS, but not racism.”
Ashley revealed he still receives online racist abuse about the routine, while brother Jordan – also part of the dance troupe – said his children had been subjected to racism. At one point, the 28-year-old said someone threw cement over his car.
Jordan told The British Entrepreneur podcast: “When I’m sat at home and you’re telling me really horrible stuff like “your kids are so ugly, they should die”, “I hope your kids get caught in a house fire”.
“It’s crazy stuff, mad — especially since last year when we did that performance on BGT. From then, it was like a red rag to a bull.”
He added: “There were times when I’ve been in my office — my garage is converted — and I came out and people are trying to climb out over my garden gate. It’s really weird how people react to stuff.”
Now, despite the vitriol, the segment has been chosen as one of six nominees for the Virgin Media Must-See Moment Award at this year’s BAFTA television awards.
Hannah Wyatt, chairwoman of BAFTA’s television committee, said: “Television in 2020 showcased the importance of entertainment and demonstrated incredible craft, gripping scriptwriting and brilliant visual spectacles which captivated the British viewer.
“From bringing nostalgic favourites back, to raising awareness about hugely important issues, the shows and moments nominated for Virgin Media’s Must-See Moment Award 2021 reflect our TV habits of the last year and perfectly celebrate the relationship between the TV viewers at home and the people who make it.
“I can’t wait to see who the public choose to be their Virgin Media Must-See Moment winner, in what is sure to be a close contest.”