Florence resigns as Hay Festival director after bullying claim upheld

Florence resigns as Hay Festival director after bullying claim upheld

Hay Festival director Peter Florence has quit after the organisation's board unanimously endorsed an investigation upholding an allegation of bullying made against him.

Florence, who co-founded the festival in 1988 with his parents, was suspended last October while the panel reviewed the complaint by a member of staff. Florence has been signed off sick ever since.

On 29th July, the Hay Festival board backed the findings of an independent investigation and panel review that upheld the internal complaint against him. In line with the festival's disciplinary procedure and its bullying and harassment procedures, it found his actions amounted to gross misconduct.

Hay said in a statement: "This decision followed a thorough and extensive process, which considered substantial supporting evidence. As the board gathered to conclude the internal process, Mr Florence resigned with immediate effect. The board will now be seeking new leadership for the world-renowned non-profit organisation.”

It added: "Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our teams, artists, friends, Haymakers and supporters in Wales and around the world, our hybrid festival plans continue unchanged for the next 12 months as we bring writers and readers together in sustainable events across Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Hay-on-Wye."

In a statement Florence hit out at the board, saying: “I consider that 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.

“I am incredibly proud of the achievements of the Hay festival over the past 35 years and hope that it continues to go from strength to strength. I do not wish to comment further at this time and continue to take legal advice.”

Since Florence's suspension, finance director and interim c.e.o. Tania Hudson has led the team, delivering its digital events in December and May. Hay Festival International director Cristina Fuentes continues to run its global events.

Chair of the festival board Caroline Michel told The Bookseller: “Hay has had one of our most successful years ever. We are financially secure, our festivals worldwide were attended by over people. El Pais said ‘Hay has democratised culture’ .  

“We are now looking for new leadership to lead us into a very exciting future. Hay has been lead so professionally and well by Tania Hudson and Cristina Fuentes and the team through this difficult year. We thank all our writers, sponsors, stakeholders and friends for their great support.”