United Kingdom

'Bullying' Hay Festival chief is forced out after board upholds complaint

The founder of the Hay literature festival has quit after bullying allegations against him were upheld.

Peter Florence, 56, was suspended last October over what one insider described as 'a particular style of management'.

Yesterday, it emerged that the festival's board had unanimously endorsed the finding of an independent review that he had committed gross misconduct.

It said the complaint had been backed by more than half of the Welsh festival team and the decision came after a 'thorough and extensive process'. 

'The board will now be seeking new leadership for the world-renowned non-profit organisation,' it added. 

The case is understood to relate to a grievance lodged by a member of staff.

Mr Florence hit back last night, saying: 'My role had become untenable due to the conduct of the board and its insistence on holding a disciplinary hearing in my absence whilst I was off sick following a breakdown.'

He said he was incredibly proud of the festival and hoped it would continue to go from strength to strength.

Caroline Michel, chairman of the event, insisted the decision was not related to an allegation that a Hay worker sent to the United Arab Emirates to launch an offshoot of the festival was sexually assaulted by a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family.

Dubbed the 'King of Hay', Peter Florence (pictured), 56, founded the festival with his parents, Norman and Rhoda, in 1988

Caroline Michel (pictured), chairman of the event, insisted the decision was not related to an allegation that a Hay worker sent to the United Arab Emirates to launch an offshoot of the festival was sexually assaulted by a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family

The Hay-on-Wye festival was dubbed 'Hay on Wi-fi' last year after moving online, with guests including author Maggie O'Farrell, actress Vanessa Redgrave and comedian Stephen Fry

She said Mr Florence had failed to engage with the disciplinary process for nine months following his suspension, leaving the board with no choice but to act.

She added that the fact more than half the staff backed the complaint illustrated the 'sheer number' of those behind it.

Mr Florence did not head this year's festival, a digital event held in May under the leadership of finance director Tania Hudson.

Dubbed the 'King of Hay', he founded the festival with his parents, Norman and Rhoda, in 1988.

In 2019 he was granted the honour of being the chairman of the Booker prize jury – which caused controversy by giving the award jointly to Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood.

The Hay-on-Wye festival was dubbed 'Hay on Wi-fi' last year after moving online, with guests including author Maggie O'Farrell, actress Vanessa Redgrave and comedian Stephen Fry.

The sheikh in the UAE allegation denies wrongdoing.

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