Hay Festival chief ‘bullying’ forced out after board upholds complaint

‘Bullying’ festival head forced out: Board of directors upholds complaint against Hay founder … but responds and says his role has become ‘indefensible’

  • Peter Florence, 56, was suspended for allegations of bullying in October last year
  • More than half of the Welsh Festival team supported the complaint
  • It is understood that the case relates to a complaint made by a staff member


The founder of the Hay Festival of Literature has resigned after upholding allegations of bullying against him.

Peter Florence, 56, was suspended last October for what an insider described as a “special style of management”.

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

She said the complaint was supported by more than half of the Wales Festival team and that the decision came after a “thorough and extensive process”.

“The board will now seek new leadership for the world-renowned nonprofit,” she added.

It is understood that the case relates to a complaint made by an employee.

Mr Florence responded last night: “My role has become untenable due to the conduct of the Board of Directors and their insistence on holding a disciplinary hearing in my absence while I was ill after a breakdown.”

He said he is very proud of the festival and hopes it will continue to progress from strength to strength.

Caroline Michel, the event’s chairperson, insisted the decision had nothing to do with the claim that a Hay employee was sent to the UAE to launch a branch of the festival who had been sexually assaulted by a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.

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

Caroline Michel (pictured), event chairperson, insisted the decision had nothing to do with the claim that a Hay employee was sent to the UAE to launch a branch of the festival who had been sexually assaulted by a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family.

Caroline Michel (pictured), event chairperson, insisted the decision had nothing to do with the claim that a Hay employee was sent to the UAE to launch a branch of the festival who had been sexually assaulted by a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.

Hay-on-Wye Festival is called

The Hay-on-Wye Festival was dubbed “Hay on Wi-fi” last year after it went online, with guests including author Maggie O’Farrell, actress Vanessa Redgrave and comedian Stephen Fry.

It said Mr Florence failed to engage in the disciplinary process for nine months after his suspension, leaving the board of directors with no choice but to act.

She added that the fact that more than half of the staff supported the complaint illustrates the “huge number” of those behind it.

Mr. Florence did not preside over this year’s festival, a digital event held in May under CFO Tanya Hudson.

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

In 2019, he was given the honor of chairing the Booker Prize jury – something that sparked controversy by awarding the prize jointly to Bernardine Evaristo and Margaret Atwood.

The Hay-on-Wye Festival was dubbed “Hay on Wi-fi” last year after it went online, with guests including writer Maggie O’Farrell, actress Vanessa Redgrave and comedian Stephen Fry.

The allegations of the sheikh in the UAE deny any wrongdoing.

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