Shop accused of racism removes image of tobacco plantation

Farrants in Cobham, Surrey has apologised ‘unreservedly’.

A shop in Surrey that faced racism allegations over an “incredibly triggering” image of a tobacco plantation has now removed it and the business has apologised “unreservedly”.

Farrants in Cobham came under fire after Misan Harriman, the chairman of London’s Southbank Centre and a photographer who has taken portraits of the Sussexes, including Princess Lilibet, said he was “speechless” when he saw the image behind the counter.

The shop has since removed the image and apologised on Instagram for “any and all distress” the image had caused.

“We will keep this brief,” the post read.

“The image that has caused offence has been removed. We apologise unreservedly for any and all distress that it caused.”

The blown-up sepia image covered a wall behind the cash desk and included the words “we sell tobacco”, and appeared to show black people working on a tobacco plantation overseen by white men.

Posts about the image on social media by Mr Harriman, who is also an ambassador of Save the Children UK, were shared thousands of times since Tuesday.

Mr Harriman posted screenshots of the shop’s apology on X, formerly Twitter, alongside a tweet from Surrey Police confirming that the image has been taken down.

Surrey Police tweeted: “We are aware of the commentary surrounding an image at Farrants newsagent in Cobham.

“While no formal reports have been made to police, we have spoken with the shop’s manager and we’ve been informed they have removed the image and issued an apology on Instagram.”

Mr Harriman initially posted a video on X saying: “I saw the most triggering thing, I’ve just come in to try and get toys for my girls, and I just saw the most incredibly triggering imagery; luckily my children are not with me.

“This is supposed to be a family store that has imagery of, if not enslaved, definitely indentured workers with their white masters or overseers.

“This shop in the middle of a Surrey high street thinks it’s normal to have that type of imagery next to where I could go and buy toys for my children.”

Former Netherlands and Chelsea football player Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had complained in 2020 about the same image in Farrants, which was founded in 1989 and has a specialist tobacco room selling cigars and accessories.

Hasselbaink said on Instagram that he had complained to Farrants’ owner David Worsfold three years ago and was told the store would “replace” the image.

On Wednesday, Hasselbaink wrote: “Stories come and go. This needs some attention (Farrants), I think it’s time you followed through on your word from 2020 and replaced this image.”

It is not the only time the business has faced controversy.

Caroline Tang, 49, from Great Bookham, Surrey, said she was “absolutely shocked” when an employee from Farrants made a racial comment about her Chinese husband Andrew Tang, 51, in December 2019.

During their visit, Mrs Tang went into Farrants with her children and spoke to an employee at the counter about her husband’s origins in Cobham.

She told PA: “He (the employee) turned around and said ‘you know why there are not any Chinese restaurants here any more?’

“He said, ‘oh, because there are no stray dogs in Cobham any more’.

“I was absolutely shocked to my core, then worried about what the children would make of it.”

Ms Tang said she wrote a one-star Google review, then complained to the store via their website’s comment section and on their Instagram, but she said her comments were deleted.

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