The UK’s History channel is getting taken to school.
On Monday, Sky HISTORY—the History channel’s counterpart across the pond—posted a promotional clip for its competition series The Chop: Britain’s Top Woodworker on Twitter. Featured contestant Darren Lumsden, a heavily-tattooed joiner from Bristol, was portrayed as good-natured and folksy; contemplating the competition ahead, he described himself as “patient, to a degree.”
But Twitter users quickly noticed some troubling ink on Lumsden’s face—although Sky HISTORY initially seemed to brush the controversy aside, the network announced Tuesday that it would conduct an investigation.
The most prominent of Lumsden’s controversial face tattoos is the number “88”—a white supremacist numerical code that uses the letter “H’s” position in the alphabet to denote “Heil Hitler.” (Lumsden claims the number alludes to the year his father died, though did not provide evidence.)
Lumsden also has the numbers “23” and “16” (which, together, stand for “WP,” or “white power”) tattooed on either side of his head, and the word “Homegrown” above his lip.
Sky HISTORY’s first explanation drew skepticism: “Darren’s tattoos denote significant events in his life and have no political or ideological meaning whatsoever,” the network wrote on Twitter. “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,” the statement continued, “that confirmed Darren has no affiliations or links to racist groups, views or comments.”
The statement concluded: “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.”
Hours later the network removed the tweets and replaced them with a new statement.
“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,” the network said. “Sky HISTORY stands against racism & hate speech of all kinds.”
Oddly enough, in 2007 a man named Darren Lumsden also competed on the Channel 4 series Dumped. The Daily Beast has been unable to confirm whether this is the same man, but asked Channel 4 and Sky HISTORY for comment.
Like the man on Britain’s Top Woodworker, the Lumsden who appeared on Dumped was described as a joiner from Bristol in a report from The Guardian at the time.
The 2007 series dropped its unwitting contestants in a landfill; advertisements promised they’d be building shelters out of trash, and scavenging as they competed for $20,000. But as the show prepared to air, reports suggested that the production was all fake—the junkyard was actually a set yards away from the real dump and the contestants were being given food rations rather than scavenging, in compliance with health laws.
Lumsden left the show voluntarily after three days; The Guardian reported that he told his fellow contestants, “I don’t believe that what we are going to do is going to achieve anything. If I don’t believe in it I won’t be doing any good for myself or other people.”
As Sky HISTORY’s investigation continues, The Daily Beast has also reached out Big Wheel - Film and Television, which produces The Chop: Britain’s Top Woodworker, for comment. In the meantime, it appears Britain will just have to wait to find out who earned the woodworking crown.