Vicky Hungerford, director of the 20,000-capacity Bloodstock Open Air festival in Derbyshire, has apologised and “taken a step back” after being the subject of a social media backlash.

The boss of the UK’s largest independent heavy metal festival came under fire after tweeting, “If you are going to start putting pronouns on your emails so I can refer to you as he/him she or her I’m binning your emails.”

The fallout from the message includes the festival’s entertainment manager Paul Watling resigning from his role. In a message on Facebook he said, “I’ve left Bloodstock as entertainment manager tonight for obvious reasons. There are hundreds of people who make that festival happen, they’re all amazing, and I’ve been so proud to be a small part of it but this is not an isolated incident. You can not promote a festival of inclusivity without including everyone.”

Hungerford’s apparent frustration with the use of preferred pronouns in email signatures was met with a barrage of criticism. In response she said, “We live in an age where we shouldn’t question anyone’s choice or decisions as to what they are or how they live their life. My post was my frustration leaking out that some people now feel they have to sign off with a pronoun, not necessarily just because they want to. I apologise for the way I said it and how it came across.”

Hungerford has worked for Bloodstock Open Air since 2001. In 2004 she became a director of the festival and took over the booking of all artists for the main stage, as the festival expanded she took over band bookings and negotiations for artists for both the main stage and second stage.

The festival is owned and run by independent promoter Amust4music. In a statement it said, “For now, Vicky has taken a step back from Bloodstock effective immediately, and will be taking time to properly educate herself for a better understanding.”