Councillor and visitor centre director rains on dog festival parade

By Stuart Nuttall in Local People

The future of Woofstock UK’s Dartmouth dog festival has been thrown into doubt this week – with one town councillor saying she did a “rain dance” in a bid to put a dampener on the event.

Cllr Gina Coles, who is also a director of the council’s visitor centre, said she wanted to see the event moved to “an appropriate field and not our lovely Coronation Park”.

Her emailed comments came after she told editor Stuart Nuttall when he called in at the visitor centre on Sunday that her “rain dance” had not worked on Saturday, the day of the Woofstock UK festival.

Asked why she had wanted rain, Cllr Coles said the organiser, Heather Nesbitt, was “not the right sort” to be running it. She suggested we looked into Ms Nesbitt’s background on the internet. A Google search of former police officer Ms Nesbitt’s background shows she made newspaper headlines in 2007 when she took City of London Police to an employment tribunal alleging sex discrimination, and sexuality and disability discrimination. The case was settled privately, with Ms Nesbitt, who is gay, agreeing to a confidentiality clause.

Questioned this week, Cllr Coles said: “No, I don’t like or trust her but I love dogs and dog shows.”

Cllr Coles said she formed her opinions about Ms Nesbitt when she gave a presentation to the town council last year. She added: “That wasn’t altered by learning about her time with the Met [sic]. I have family and friends that are or were in the job and people like her make a mockery of the police force.

“I also wonder why she gives a few quid [from festival proceeds], at most, to a charity [Animals Asia] that has more than £2m income and is left with a bottom line of almost half a million quid on their last accounts filed… Why doesn’t she give it to local charities that could do with it?”

Mr Nuttall had earlier emailed Cllr Coles saying: “Spoke to ‘not the right sort’ Heather tonight for a piece on Saturday’s dog festival. She’s happy Woofstock went well and already looking forward to next year. You’ll have to get your ‘rain dance’ shoes on again. Lol.”

Cllr Coles replied: “I haven’t heard how the park [Coronation] looked on Sunday yet but I do know that we will be in charge of the park next year [after the proposed transfer of assets from South Hams District Council to the town council] so perhaps we’ll be looking at ‘suggesting’ a different venue for her next year!

“It appears that my ‘rain shoes’ didn’t work, so I’ll work on different ways for next year!!!”

Responding to Cllr Coles’ comments, Ms Nesbitt, from Blackawton, said: “How disappointing that after such a successful event as Woofstock UK that a town councillor has made it her life’s work to attempt to put an end to it. Surely her energy would be best used to serve the community who elected her to office.

“Taking aside the comments of my past policing and given that was over 10 years ago – and incidentally I was injured in the line of duty chasing a male suspect with a knife while protecting my colleagues – I am more interested in the comment made by Cllr Coles about doing a ‘rain dance’ to spoil Woofstock UK; her attack on one of our chosen charities; and her veiled threat that once the town council owns Coronation Park it will be ‘suggested’ we move from that venue.

“For an elected representative of Dartmouth and director of the visitor centre to state she wished us bad weather on the day of the event is appalling.

“To further go on to say she will need to ‘work on a different way’ next year is abhorrent. To then go on to dig into the accounts of one of our chosen charities is disgraceful.

“As for the veiled threat, all I can say is that if we are that unwelcome in the town, not by the businesses or residents or tourists but by the town council who allow Cllr Coles to represent them in such a manner, then maybe we will consider moving from glorious Dartmouth. Not because it is not the right venue, because it quite clearly is, but because we have been made to feel unwelcome, not trusted and have been treated with absolute disregard.

“Cllr Coles is one voice in thousands. She has made no attempt to engage with me. She has met me once and formed an opinion that is way off the mark.

“As for local charities, her own charity refused our straw which has gone to another local horse rescue centre.

“May I suggest we meet so that I can educate Cllr Coles on matters she clearly does not understand and that get her so hot under the collar and lead her off on a tangent that is very far from the truth.”

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Theresa Hart · 3 days ago · Report

We are Dartmouth residents & Woofstock exhibitors. It is precisely what the town needs;- fun, quirky, unique to keep the town, vibrant, inclusive, original & interesting. All the people we spoke to at the show were overwhelmed by what a fabulous & professional event it was. Sad to live in a town where we can elect a councillor with this attitude to people, business & the tourism of the town who tries to turn away an opportunity like Woofstock.

David Haynes · 6 days ago · Report

Cllr Coles - what an awful person. Is she really the sort of councillor Dartmouth wants as a town representative, damaging the town's reputation?

Elizabeth · 6 days ago · Report

This makes for interesting reading; http://www.dartmouth-today.co.uk/article.cfm?id=863&headline=Work%20together%20call%20goes%20out%20to%20the%20TIC&year=2015

Michelle, Sammy & Penny · 7 days ago · Report

This is an ugly, spiteful woman. How dare she say she loves dogs & dog shows. WoofstockUk is a beautiful family event arranged by beautiful people that are loved by so many. Heather, Carol & Harry are friends...like family. You shit on our family...you shit on us. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. We support Heather 100% and are here for her. Not sure what we can do from Los Angeles, but we're ready to fight.

Susan Lynch · 7 days ago · Report

Shocked and disgusted that these comments came from a woman representing Dartmouth, via the council and Visitors Centre. We attended WoofstockUK and travelled from Surrey, We spent money on hotels, B&B, restaurants and shops. We found all of these very welcoming to us and our dog. Heather Nesbitt worked extremely hard to provide a wonderful and very well organised event for us all. Cllr Cole should remember we are in 2017 and not the dark ages where her homophobic and bigoted remoarks belong.

Annemarie Ferrier · 7 days ago · Report

Was shocked to read such vile comments about Ms Nesbitt from Cllr Coles. I witnessed the hard work and love Heather and Carol put into Woofstock uk to make it a wondeful fun day for all. Cllr Coles needs to apologise and resign instead of airing her peronal views which have no bearing on the event and are homophobic and abhorrent in this day and age.

P.Simon · 7 days ago · Report

Gina Coles: 'Not the right sort' to lead Dartmouth into the 21st century.

Denise House · 7 days ago · Report

SHOCKING homophobic comments made by your local counsillor and Visitor Centre Director !!! Totally not acceptable. To all you local people, those of you who attended or had us visitors at your hotels or in your shops/restaurants, you know this event is important to you and Dartmouth therefore all we ask is for you to support Ms Nesbitt. Thank you

Sarah Bennett · 7 days ago · Report

Just shocked & appalled! Absolutely disgusting behaviour for an elected representative to say someone 'is unwelcome & not be trusted as not the right sort' shows how judgemental and discriminatory in the extreme Gina Coles is! Woofstock was an amazing success. Dartmouth clearly doesn't deserve Woofstock. I hope Woofstock finds another Devon town for future events. Dartmouth clearly does not have 'the right sort of elected councillors' !

Cate Hingley · 7 days ago · Report

I cannot believe that such a vile, homophobic woman could be allowed to continue in her role at the council. She does not speak for the majority and to wish a fund raising event to fail is just so shocking! Please, please sack this abhorrent woman before she can do any more harm.

Lynn Alderson · 7 days ago · Report

Bring it to Totnes or Dartington Heather - you'll be welcome here. I'm surprised that Dartmouth people want to be represented by someone who makes nasty, personal and essentially homophobic attacks on someone who is organising great events, popular with the community.

Amanda Finbow · 7 days ago · Report

So this month I bought the Coast Magazine as it had a big feature - spotlight on Devon and a copy of Devon life, along the possible purchase of dog friendly Devon , this councillors one statement has undone all the hard work of others as I'm not sure I will holiday here now , as I have family members who are of that sort , I'd hate to think someone would be doing rain dances in an effort to cancel events what sort of an embaddadar is she ? I'll stick to my native Yorkshire .

Jo Beckett · 7 days ago · Report

Totally abhorrent behaviour from an elected Council Official ! Ms Nesbitt has worked tirelessly for WoofstockUK & Animals Asia & should be Commended not subjected to this vile abuse ! Well enjoy your 15 mins of fame Cllr Coles - with any luck it won't last much longer !!

Lynn Pugsley · 7 days ago · Report

What a thoroughly nasty person this councillor is. We went to Woofstock. It was great fun, well organised and we really enjoyed it. We also spent money in Dartmouth afterwards- have told lots of people about it and there's a lot of interest in attending the next one. Thank you to the organisers for doing a great job.

Heather Palmer · 7 days ago · Report

Shocking comments and behaviour from an elected official. She should resign immediately

Bella · 7 days ago · Report

Well what an absolutely vile iperson Councillor Cole is!! It is obviously a personal vendetta against Ms Nesbit as it seems if someone else organised there would be no problem holding in the precious Coronation Park. I'm am appalled and disguised by this persons personal comments here's hoping she is forced to step down but I suspect her constituents now know what they would be voting for!!

Kati Owen · 8 days ago · Report

I am totally disgusted by Cllr Cole's comments. They are prejudiced and personal and WRONG!! I simply cannot understand in what way Ms Nesbitt could be considered to be "not the right sort" and why Cllr Cole would not be supportive of any event attracting visitors to the area. My only conclusion is that Ms Cole is a prejudiced bigot and should resign from both her roles immediately.

Lenny Palienko-Bown · 8 days ago · Report

Well Councillor, your constituents have had their eyes well & truly opened to your bigotted, nasty, spiteful ways! Not only was Woofstock a huge success but it brought so many people into Dartmouth who didn't know it existed before. I travelled over 300 miles to attend, spent my hard earned cash in there - A hotel for the weekend, restaurants, gifts & had fully intended to return - but I will only do so after you are forced to step down for your prejudiced comments. #ginacolesshouldstepdown

Ed Reach · 8 days ago · Report

Based on her reported comments, Cllr Coles should consider her position as a Cllr and a director of the Dartmouth Visitor Centre and reflect on whether she is fit to continue in either role. It is imperative that both organisations disassociate themselves from the mean spirited views that she's reportedly expressed. If they don't, it will reflect badly on them. It is clear from the comments expressed so far here and on social media, that Cllr Coles speaks for no one but herself.

Toddy Furrington · 8 days ago · Report

How very unfortunate to hear the councillor making negative personal and seemingly homophobic comments about a woman she doesn't know. The Woofstock dog festival is a smashing event and very well run. I hope it continues to flourish.

Kerrie · 8 days ago · Report

Heather was amazingly supportive towards my family at this event and we all had an amazing day out. This woman should be asked to step down from her position as councillor, as her comments suggest this to be the majority opinion, which I greatly doubt it is! This shows dartmouth council in a very unsavoury light. My hope is that, as a local, this is not the case!!

Marjo Biermans · 8 days ago · Report

what a rude attack of Heather thats WORSE and too rude for words. i know Heather for more then 5 years and all the years I come on behalf of my compagny Ammy's Delight she made me feel very welcome and she was helpfull where ever she could. Heather and her family are amazing people and I love them all. So an attack on her is an attack on me and all the visitors of woofstock.UK. SHAME ON YOU COUNCILLOR

Steve Sowden · 8 days ago · Report

Bigotry and ignorance are ugly character traits in any individual, but extremely worrying when they are found in a councillor...

AL Clark · 8 days ago · Report

This is blatant homophobia and she should resign

L Kingsley · 8 days ago · Report

How very petty and mean-spirited! Although I was unable to attend Woofstock this year, as a dog-owner who frequently holidays in Devon, the fact that Dartmouth had such a festival brought to Dartmouth to my attention as a potential holiday destination, but if this is the sort of attitude we can expect we'll go somewhere else and spend our money there.

Stephen · 8 days ago · Report

Tells you a lot about this awful woman . I wonder if she's a Tory councillor by any chance! Personal attacks about someone's sexuality appalling & someone like that should be kicked out of public office. Let's hope she has a past that someone can dig up.

Gillian Seaman · 8 days ago · Report

This is disgusting coming from a person elected to her position. I think Ms Nesbitt deserves a public apology. Also I think this councillor needs to reflect on her attitude to visitors. WoofstockUK attracted visitors from all over the UK and beyond. These people stayed in local hotels etc and ate at local restaurants and shopped in local shops. What more as the councillor responsible for visits want? Indeed I have to question Cllr Coles suitability for her role given her comments above.

Christine Davidson · 8 days ago · Report

This is a vile and homophobic attack on an individual who has done nothing more than try to raise money for charity and positively promote the area. This smacks of jealousy and utterly draconian views. I hope the local community steps up to support Ms Nesbit and drown out the voice of that councillor.

Lorraine · 8 days ago · Report

I worked as a volunteer for Woofstock on Saturday, it was a fantastic event and every single person I spoke to on the gate absolutely loved it and lots of people were asking me if it was coming back next year! The town was absolutely buzzing and full of life, I have never seen Dartmouth quite like that before. I can't sing the praises of Heather and the rest of the Woofstock team high enough and if they do decide not to return next year it really be will be Dartmouth's loss.

Julie Carr · 8 days ago · Report

These comments say far more about Cllr Cole than she realises. So she would rather see Dartmouth businesses lose money than have what she considers to be the wrong sort of people in town? I hope this is remembered at election time. I travelled from Dorset for this event and found Dartmouth to be a beautiful friendly place so, Cllr Cole, maybe it is you who is the 'wrong sort' and need to take a good look at yourself - you are the minority.

Sue · 8 days ago · Report

What nasty, spiteful behaviour. The personal criticism is quite uncalled for and unfitting for a Councillor.

Hayley Rossiter · 8 days ago · Report

And I thought ' nimbyisum' was only reserved for affordable housing in Dartmouth!!

Kathy Faulkner · 8 days ago · Report

Homophobic bigotry gone mad. This event was hugely successful and thoroughly enjoyed by all of us who attended. This was my first visit to Dartmouth and I had intended to visit again - but if this woman is representing the views of the people of Dartmouth I shall re-consider. Here's hoping the residents will speak up and get her out of office for good.

Kay Kitto · 8 days ago · Report

What has Cllr Coles got against Heather Nesbitt to attack her in such a cruel and vile way and to wish bad weather for the event. Cllr Coles comes across as Homophobic in her comments. Woofstock was a fantastic family fun day with dogs and about dogs. We travelled up from Falmouth to be there and had a really good time. Cllr Coles should now do the decent thing apologise to Heather publicly and resign. Cllr Coles is not fit to stand as a Cllr

Sarah · 8 days ago · Report

What dreadful spiteful comments on a day that seemed to have been universally loved by all. How very sad to say those things. And as for the homophobic comments - if this woman is permitted to continue in her role after that, then there truly is no justice. I think the council should consider her position very carefully. Disgusting.

Barney hammond · 8 days ago · Report

This is just appalling!!...what a homophobic bigoted individual, in this day and age you are a disgrace to your council, community and human kind.😡😡😡😡

Troy Varney · 8 days ago · Report

Gina Cole's, Judgmental much? You are a pathetic excuse of a human being. Ms. Nesbitt is a better person than you could ever hope to be. Get off your high horse and stop judging people that you don't even know... KMA, Troy Varney USAF Veteran

Nigel Kitto · 8 days ago · Report

What an absolutely vile councillor Dartmouth have. It was a glorious day, busy and very friendly. We travelled up from Falmouth for Woofstock to support Heather, when my wife had a serious accident last year (Google Kay Kitto Falmouth accident) Heather was amazing, raised funds to help us, visited us in Derriford, was there as support for me. She is one of the nicest people you will EVER meet. This attack on her is disgusting.

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