The mystery of the missing festival chief

As Britain's literati continue their annual pilgrimage to the Hay-on-Wye Festival this weekend, one man can expect to receive a less than hearty welcome from locals.

Peter Florence, the director of the nation's premier book festival, is once more on the back foot. The source of his latest discomfort is Addyman Books, a chain of book shops in the town, which has launched a competition inviting the public to write short stories lampooning him.

In a swipe at what she claims is his habit of arriving in Hay on the eve of the festival and vanishing the moment it is over, the shops' co-owner, Anne Brichto, is offering a £100 prize for the best spoof account of his whereabouts for the rest of the year. The winning entry will be published in the local weekly paper, the Brecon and Radnor Express.

Ms Brichto feels she has good cause for embarrassing Mr Florence. She is still riled by his decision last year to accept sponsorship from Nestlé - a move that caused Germaine Greer and Booker nominee Jim Crace to boycott the festival.

Though Mr Florence has since quietly dropped Nestlé, and Ms Greer has returned to the fold, ill feeling over the fiasco still runs high in Hay.

Ms Brichto is advertising her competition on posters in all three Addyman shops. It features a doctored version of the cover of a Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Musical Cow, accompanied by the words: "No one has seen the director! Has he been kidnapped? Has he absconded? Or has something more sinister occurred? Who would want to hurt him or wreck his career?"

Explaining the idea behind the gimmick, Ms Brichto, 40, said: "Hay is not all one big happy family. The festival can make it all a bit Toy-Townish.

"Until a day before the festival no one had seen Peter at all, so as I was looking for a display for a detective fiction window I decided to run a fun competition. The poster was so good I've put it up in all three shops."

Ms Brichto is not alone in critising Mr Florence. The hangover from the Nestlé controversy has meant that perennial snipers who view the arrival of the literary fraternity as an invasion by bourgeois city dwellers have found new allies among traditional fans of the festival.

One local woman who says her long-time support for the event was tested by the Nestlé issue said: "Most people have the perception that it's a good thing for the town, but there's definitely a sense that some people matter more than others to the festival organisers. If people have lots of money and are seen as celebrities there's a feeling that they are more likely to have their letters answered and phone calls returned."

Another veteran festival-goer said: "There's definitely a love-hate relationship. Many people see the town more like Hampstead-on-Wye than Hay-on-Wye at festival time.

"It's become a bit like a nice tourist resort, which is lovely during the winter but when it gets to the summer it's crawling with people. It's a big relief when everyone goes."

Mr Florence himself professes to be unfazed by his latest slight at the hands of Ms Brichto, who has become something of a bête noire for him in recent times. When Bill Clinton attended the festival in 2001 she filled her window display with copies of Monica Lewinsky's biography, alongside piles of cigars - a reference to the former US president's sexual exploits in the Oval office. Last year, she put up a statement denouncing Nestlé.

"One of the things I love most about this job is that it doesn't require me to spend any time with [Ms Brichto]," Mr Florence said last night, commenting on the short story competition.

He added that the festival remained popular with the overwhelming majority of the residents of Hay remarking that of the 1,300 people who are registered to vote in the town at least 1,000 have bought tickets to attend this year's events.

Asked about his decision to drop Nestlé as a festival sponsor after only one year, Mr Florence said: "Nestlé are not sponsoring this year. We decided that they would detract from the content of the festival. I'm really glad Germaine is coming. I love her and I think she's one of the most inspiring people I've ever heard speak."

Not everyone is so critical of Mr Florence as Ms Brichto. Richard Booth, the bookshop owner who put Hay on the literary map long before the festival began 17 years ago, said: "I like Peter. He's been very generous to me and we work with him very well. The only thing is that we would like to do it [the festival] on 51 out of the 52 weeks in the year, rather than just the two."

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn