Julie Finch

Julie Finch Appointed as Hay Festival CEO

The Hay Festival has appointed Julie Finch as its new CEO following the resignation of its founder Peter Florence, who left the festival over a bullying claim.

Art gallery director Julie Finch has been appointed as the new CEO of the Hay Festival. Finch will succeed founder and former director Peter Florence, who resigned from his role after a bullying claim was upheld last year.

This news marks a fresh start for the festival, which has suffered blows to its reputation in recent years. As well as the bullying claims against Florence, curator Caitlin McNamara alleged in 2020 that she was sexually assaulted in the United Arab Emirates when setting up a Hay Festival-branded event there.

The prestigious literary festival, now in its 35th year, selected the former CEO of the Cheltenham Trust for the role after ‘an extensive nationwide recruitment process’. Finch has more than twenty years of experience in the cultural and creative sectors, most recently as CEO-director of Compton Verney Art Gallery.

Hay Festival chair Caroline Michel praised Finch’s ‘proven track record of strong leadership, effective strategy development and widening cultural participation’, citing the appointment as ‘a thrilling new chapter for Hay Festival’.

Finch, who describes herself as a ‘Hay Festival regular’, is looking forward to taking the festival in a new direction and said that she hopes to ‘reimagine the role a festival can play in our cultural landscape and contemporary society’ and ‘plot a future that’s both daring and sustainable’. Finch will be taking up her position in August.

Last month, Hay Festival unveiled the full programme for its main spring event, with speakers ranging from Abdulrazak Gurnah and Stephen Fry to Nicola Sturgeon and Hillary Clinton. The event will run from 26 May–5 June, and tickets are on sale now.


Find out more about the Hay Festival here.