Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck is to become a theatre critic on a local newspaper in Surrey.
The ex Fleet Street journalist, who was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking last year before being released without charge, will write reviews for weekly Newsquest title the Surrey Comet.
He denies the allegations that led to his sacking from News International last year and is currently pursuing a claim for unfair dismissal against the company.
Neville, who now pens his own blog, will contribute reviews of shows from the Rose Theatre starting with The Lady from the Sea which will be launched on Monday 5 March.
Said Neville: “Theatre is a passion of mine going back many years. I did English and theatre studies at university in 1980 so it has been a 33-year passion.
“I have been going to the Rose Theatre since day one, not to every piece, but regularly.
“Last year I saw The Importance of Being Earnest and a few other things. It is an extremely high standard and it deserves to succeed because of all the hard work that went into it.”
He criticised the Arts Council’s failure to give the Rose a grant as ‘crazy’, but promised his opinions would be fair and balanced.
Assistant editor of the Comet Julia Kennard said: “We are thrilled Neville Thurlbeck has joined us as the Surrey Comet’s official theatre critic.
“As a newspaper at the heart of the community we welcome the opportunity to have even greater coverage and comment of the arts in Kingston.”
Theatre-lovers and wannabe critics will also be given the opportunity to disagree with Neville and post their own alternative views to spark artistic debate in the borough.
Reviews will be posted on a revamped Rose Theatre section of the Surrey Comet website and also in the paper.
Added Neville: “We do not want to give undue criticisms but pass criticism only when it is deserved.”
“In these days of flagging interest in the arts the Surrey Comet is a crucial medium to advertise and get the message across about the artistic lifeblood that’s rich and flowing through the borough.”
Neville worked for the News of the World for 21 years and became its chief reporter in 2003.
He twice won the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Press Awards – in 2000 for revealing that former Conservative chairman Jeffrey Archer perjured himself during a 1987 libel case and in 2005 for revelations about the private life of David Beckham.