Todays Dartmouth Chronicle publishes a front page article which highlights one Councillors campaign against the highly successful Woofstock held last weekend on Coronation Park. Social media has gone almost viral with protests about the intervention of Cllr Gina Coles who clearly does not understand the importance of festivals to the economy of the Town. With over 2000 visitors coming to the Woofstock event we would expect the Council to recognise the important contribution this will make to Dartmouths economy. Unfortunately this town council has a blind spot where local business is concerned.Some of the comments on social media are reprinted below after the Chronicle front page article:
The online publication of the Dartmouth Chronicle’s front page has attracted dozens of comments in favour of Woofstock UK, a dog festival held in the town, and angry reaction to comments made by a town councillor and director of the visitor centre.
Gina Coles had told the Chronicle she had done a “rain dance’, in the hope of blighting the one-day event of Coronation Park. She also said organiser Heather Nesbitt was “not the right sort” to hold the festival.
Among those commenting on social media was Lucy Willetts, the Chronicle’s Stoke Fleming village correspondent.
She said: “Disgusting woman … ignore her Harry Nesbitt … absolutely every single person I’ve spoken to without fail thinks it was a brilliant event - it was so well organised and more importantly well attended - thus bringing seriously much needed business into the town! As someone already said - Gina Coles should stand down - she’s a disgrace (not to mention clueless!!).
Karen Fletcher said: “We all had a fabulous day. Heather And Carol done an absolutely brilliant job. So many thanks to you my friends. What you guys done for Dartmouth is outstanding. Truly no words. Professional, outstanding day. Proud to not just know you but love you, and call you my friends.
Apologies for my son’s outspoken comments, I don’t know where he gets it from?
I’m sure you don’t mean “apologise” in the sense that you disagree with my comments though!
In all seriousness, I’ve never seen such a strong response to a Chronicle article from so many people so quickly. When I last checked there were over 30 comments in fewer than 24 hours on the front page story which was put on their website last night. Normally they don’t generate more than a couple of comments for news items. The social media response has also been massive.
We have already contacted Dartmouth Visitor Centre to let them know that after years of support through advertising, we will not continue to do so as long as Cllr Coles is in her post as a Director. That’s a shame and we are doing it with a heavy heart, but we will not be associated with an organisation that is represented by someone with her bigoted views. I’ve already seen a number of comments from visitors who were attracted to come to Dartmouth by the excellently organised Woofstock event saying that they have serious reservations about returning as a result of Cllr Coles comments.
I also think it is very clear that she is in breach of a number of the 7 guiding Nolan principles for people in public office.
For all the reasons above, I don’t think her position at the council or the visitor centre is tenable and she should resign from both roles.
Just hold your horses before we drag Gina Coles to the nearest tree to hang, In the eyes of the law a person is innocent until proved guilty and in Gina’s case she is Guilty before being proved innocent, Gina Coles is furious and rightly so that her comments were taken out of context and many comments printed she never actually said…she is taking legal advice and I suggest in fairness we leave it at that until the real truth is made public.
Cllr Stephen Smith…Townstal Ward…and a strong advocate in fair justice to all before any death warrant is signed.
i wonder whether one way to show a converse feeling to that which is alleged is for the Visitor Centre and the Town council to make an offer to woofstockUK for their return next year. I have seen not one indication of any issues or problems caused and it seem very apparent that a good number of brand new visitors to Dartmouth were attracted - a great reason for the Town Council commit now to supporting the event next year ? The coverage the organiser of Woofstock achieved with national BBC, local press, TV and the positive and energetic promotion of the event is a great example. Whilst Dartmouth has many other great events which are also promoted well, the energy put in to this could be something to learn from perhaps ? Thoughts ??
Perhaps this is the real problem for the said Councillor. Woofstock organisers certainly provided a very good example of how a well thought through social media campaign can make a real difference to peoples awareness of an event like this. As you say I think there are many lessons the Council and the TIC ( I would also add the Mayflower 400 group) could learn from Woofstock about how to communicate effectively with your audience. Something both organisations have still not learnt to optimise despite many offers of assistance from people with a track record in social media.
Hi Steve, I think some of the comments about Cllr Coles have become really nasty and personal, which I think is totally wrong. It also also undermines the genuine concerns and questions about her conduct.
She has an opportunity to give her response and in my view she must address 2 key questions. 1) Did she want Woofstock to be rained off (hence her “rain dance” and therefore for it to fail? If so, why, given the additional visitors the event generated for Dartmouth? 2) Does she want to use her influence as a Cllr to move the event from Coronation Park next year because she doesn’t “like or trust” Heather Nesbitt having met her only once?
Any other attempts to deflect from those questions and her accountability as a Cllr and Visitor Centre director will not close the matter and I hope she does address them. I also think she should acknowledge what a success the event was and that her concerns about it were not well-founded.
Steve your sentiment is of course right but this Council has unfortunately shown a lack of transparency in the past and my worry is that any enquiry will be held “in committee” meaning the public will not trust your conclusions.
Lets get all the facts on the table then we can all make a judgement. However this has been presented as a councillor’s views so it is important for the Council to either deny or support those views. And it needs to respond quickly please!!!
Consider this - the organiser of Woofstock knows that Coronation Park is under ownership of the Town council next year. They feel the Town Council is prejudice and bigoted in their attitudes towards them. They have delivered a good quality event with no issues and brought new people into the town. To arrange the festival for next year will require confirmation very soon of the location. Under the circumstances if they choose elsewhere then the town will be labelled bigoted and prejudiced in an even more public way. I find that abhorant.
The only thing to do here aside from resolving the truth of the allegations (for which a suspension of the Cllr during an investigation would be highly appropriate) is to quickly and sincerely offer the organiser a repeat festival next year and extend congratulations and support.
Given the lack of transfered funding for Coronation Park the commercialisation of the space will be essential and the ability to support well run events will be essential. An immediate public show of support for this would be an almost priceless platform for the future financial sustainability of the Councils ability to take over the responsibility for this space.
Where is the Town Councils congratulations to the organisers and where is their hand of friendship and encouragement to return next year ? if these comments are untrue then what on earth is stopping the council from doing so ? the longer they say nothing the more it seems evident that these comments are not being disowned.
Perhaps Cllr Coles should be encouraged to publish her emails in full… then people can make their oen minds up. We haven’t published them un full for two reasons:
1. As publisher we didn’t want to get involved in trying to defend unsubstantiated claims.
I suggest an agenda item at the next Council meeting (not in committee!) where all of the facts are presented and a full enquiry into the allegations of both sides can be concluded. This should be carried out in public and a clear statement from the Council should be the conclusion. Confirmation of the Councils support for next years WoofstockUK should also be part of this statement.
The current silence from the Council is not really acceptable.