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.”