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Diversity star Ashley Banjo says debut novel will paint ‘inclusive’ picture

The children’s book will follow the Fly High Crew dance troupe.

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Ashley Banjo (Matt Crossick/PA)

Ashley Banjo (Matt Crossick/PA)

Ashley Banjo (Matt Crossick/PA)

Ashley Banjo has said his debut novel with brother Jordan will draw on his experience of being one of the few black students at his school to a paint an “inclusive” picture.

The siblings, who are members of Britain’s Got Talent champions Diversity, will publish Fly High Crew: The Green Glow in April.

Written with young adult author Alexandra Sheppard, it tells the story of brothers Trey and Jax, who are part of a street dance troupe called the Fly High Crew and must save the world from aliens who have taken control of the adult population.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Banjo said he wanted to affect children’s lives through the story.

He said: “When we were writing this book I was thinking to myself ‘This is a story’, and I know from creating dance and creating art that stories have the ability to impact people’s lives, especially when you are a kid.

“I was writing this book with my bro and Alex, the collaborative writer, and I was sitting there thinking to myself that we have an opportunity to paint the picture of kids that might not necessarily be painted all the time.

“We have got kids that are different, kids that look different – the lead character might not look like everybody else.

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Jordan and Ashley Banjo with fellow Diversity member Perri Kiely (Ian West/PA)

Jordan and Ashley Banjo with fellow Diversity member Perri Kiely (Ian West/PA)

PA

Jordan and Ashley Banjo with fellow Diversity member Perri Kiely (Ian West/PA)

“That was my experience in school. I was the only black kid, pretty much, in my entire school, and so the lead character in this book they are black, and boys love to dance.

“There are things that affected me as a kid that I want to put out there and say ‘Listen, it’s fine’.

“Be inclusive, say to people ‘It’s OK, love whatever you love. Don’t judge people, be kind to people’.

“That is right at the heart of this book, which is something I am really proud of as well.”

Banjo said he takes his responsibility as a public figure seriously and feels the need to “speak my truth” on issues including racial equality.

Last year he and his dance troupe sparked both praise and complaints with a performance on BGT referring to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter.

Banjo said: “I think that what happens is that there is a moment, there is a tipping point, when you are going ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do what I think people want to see or hear’. You are really worried.

“Me, I was always very conscious of being in the public eye. Then there comes a point where you say ‘At the end of the day this is my life, my thoughts, and if I feel something that strongly I have to voice it’.”

PA


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