It's not often that a humble theatre critic finds himself in a media spat with a pillar of the arts establishment, but that was the case this month when I came under fire from the head of the of the Arts Council.


It all started when theatrical newspaper The Stage asked me to review a contemporary circus show called What Will Have Been at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. I didn't give it a good review. In fact, I was moved to write an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph appealing to the government to turn off the funding tap that allows such minority interest shows to be produced.


Under the headline A Critic's Plea: Stop All Arts Funding Now, I grouped the show I'd seen with "every other piece of dreary, pretentious, self-consciously 'arty' subsidised theatre that I have seen in 20 years of reviewing" and opined that I couldn't remember one good publicly funded show in all that time.


The piece kicked over a social media hornets nest in arts circles, with four thousand Facebook shares and nearly four hundred readers' comments online. Around half agreed that they didn't want their taxes spent on shows they would never choose to see.


I guess it was this outpouring of public opinion that moved Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, to pen a reply column in the Telegraph.


Under the headline Douglas McPherson Is Just Plain Wrong About Arts Funding, he began: "The great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius once said: 'Never pay any attention to what critics say…Remember, a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic.'"


Mr Henley went on: "It would be fair to say that the fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square is unlikely to feature a monument in honour of critic Douglas McPherson any time soon."


Alan Lane of publicly-funded theatre company Slung Low, meanwhile, chipped in on Twitter that if I've reviewed only bad shows for 20 years then I must be the victim of the world's longest-running prank by my editor.


Oh, the slings and arrows of being in the public eye!
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