Here's why Lee Mack's new TV series has been pulled by Sky

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 1:28 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 1:28 pm

Sky History has pulled its new woodworking series, The Chop, to investigate a contestant, following claims that he had facial tattoos linked to Nazism and white supremacists.

This is everything you need to know about what happened.

What happened?

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On Tuesday 20 October, Sky History released a clip from it’s new TV series called The Chop: Britain’s Top Woodworker.

The series, hosted by Lee Mack and Rick Edwards, travels around the UK looking for “Britain’s top woodworker”, and in the promotional clip released by the broadcaster, it introduced a heavily tattooed contestant called Darren Lumsden.

The clip was released on Twitter, with Sky History writing: “Meet the Woodman, the Bloke-With-All-The-Tattoos or Darren as we like to call him. #TheChop.”

However, viewers were quick to point out that many of the tattoos featured on Lumsden’s face had links to white supremacist and neo-Nazi symbolism.

Many viewers took to Twitter to raise their concerns with Sky History over Lumsden’s tattoos.

One person wrote: “Hey Sky History, I get you’re barely a history channel anymore but maybe do your homework on who you get on yeah? There’s a few red flags there…”

Another tweeted: “Are you for real? The bloke has Nazi tattoos on his face ffs. Sky ‘History’ indeed. Morons.”

Historian Elizabeth Boyle also tweeted: “WHAT THE F**K @HistoryUK? I can see at least five recognised Nazi/white power tattoos on this guy’s face. Get him off the f***ing TV right now. #antiracism.”

A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Sky History has made a terrible mistake by including in ‘The Chop’ an individual adorned with what appear to be neo-Nazi tattoos without providing serious evidence to show that the tattoos mean something other than how they appear.

“If Sky History is indeed ‘intolerant of racism’ as it claims, then it must urgently provide a credible clarification or remove the contestant from the programme.”

What has Sky History said?

Initially, Sky History said in a statement: “Darren’s tattoos denote significant events in his life, and have no political or ideological meaning whatsoever. Amongst the various numerical tattoos on his body, 1988 is the year of his father's death.

“The production team carried out extensive background checks on all the woodworkers taking part in the show, that confirmed Darren has no affiliations or links to racist groups, views or comments.

“Sky History is intolerant of racism and all forms of hatred and any use of symbols or numbers is entirely incidental and not meant to cause harm or offence.”

This statement was initially issued via the Sky History Twitter account, however these tweets have since been removed.

The current statement that Sky History has issued, and is pinned to the top of the Twitter account, states: “While we investigate the nature & meaning of Darren’s tattoos we have removed the video featuring him from our social media, & will not be broadcasting any eps of The Chop until we have concluded that investigation.

“Sky History stands against racism & hate speech of all kinds.”

While we investigate the nature & meaning of Darren’s tattoos we have removed the video featuring him from our social media, & will not be broadcasting any eps of The Chop until we have concluded that investigation. Sky HISTORY stands against racism & hate speech of all kinds.

— Sky HISTORY (@HISTORYUK) October 20, 2020

What could the tattoos mean?

While Lumsden had stated that the 88 on his face signifies 1988, the year of his father's death, various tattoos on his face coincide with symbols commonly used by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

The Anti Defamation League (ADL) states that the number 88 is a “white supremacist numerical code for ‘Heil Hitler’” as H is the eight letter of the alphabet - therefore 88 equals HH which stands for Heil Hitler.

On the side of Lumsden’s head are a few other tattooed numbers which appear in white supremacist imagery. The numbers 23 and 16 typically stand for “White Power” using the same numerical code as before - 23 (W) and 16 (P).

On his scalp, there appears to be a number 14 tattooed, which the ADL explains is used by white supremacists “as a shorthand reference to the so-called ‘14 Words’, which is the most popular white supremacist slogan in the world”.

The slogan, coined by David Lane, a member of the white supremancist terrorist group, The Order, says: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

On the side of Lundem’s nose appears to be a Sig rune, which the Nazis used to symbolise victory. Neo-Nazis use these symbols to signify the SS, and they are often mistaken for lightning bolts.

Prior to his appearance on the show, carpenter Lumsden spoke to Bristol Live about his tattoos.

He said: “I had other tattoos already, but about 10 years ago I saw someone with facial tattoos and started to work with my tattooist on my look.

“I have my daughter on the back of my head, and my son on my cheek. When some people first meet me, they are a bit shocked, admittedly. But they soon warm to me after a few minutes.”

He added that he had never had a negative reaction to his tattoos.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site Yorkshire Evening Post