Hay festival founder suspended after bullying allegations

Alison Flood
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: David M Benett/Getty Images

Peter Florence, the founder and director of the Hay festival, has been suspended from his position after allegations of bullying from a staff member.

The festival’s chair, Caroline Michel, said that Florence was suspended on 1 October “pending the outcome of a grievance procedure initiated by one of our staff”. He has since been signed off sick, and Michel said in a statement that she was “not at liberty to offer any further comment on personnel issues until this matter is resolved”.

A lawyer for Florence told the Sunday Times: “My client is involved in an ongoing internal process and, in accordance with his duty of confidentiality with the Hay festival, he is unable to provide further comment.”

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Separately, the suspension follows news last week that the curator of the inaugural Hay festival in Abu Dhabi, Caitlin McNamara, has accused the United Arab Emirates’ minister of tolerance of sexually assaulting her in February. McNamara, who spoke out about the alleged assault by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan last weekend, reported it to embassy staff and festival staff at the time. The festival went ahead as planned, and McNamara remains an employee of the festival, which is paying for her counselling. Nahyan has denied the allegations.

A festival source confirmed the complaint about Florence did not come from McNamara.

Finance director Tania Hudson has been appointed interim chief executive of the festival in Florence’s absence, alongside international director Cristina Fuentes La Roche.

“The Hay festival board would like to reassure all supporters and sponsors that the festival is in good hands,” Michel said.

In March, the festival was forced to launch a crowdfunding appeal after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to turn this year’s event virtual. The GoFundMe raised almost £100,000.