From Felicity Harvest, Regional Executive Director, Southern & South East Arts
As the new regional arts council for the south and south east, responsible for covering an area correctly quoted as 'twice the size of Cyprus' (ArtsProfessional, Issue 32, August 26) we gave more than "a quick look at the map" before reaching our decision to relocate our offices to Brighton. Contrary to what you suggest, there is no obvious centre or ideal location in this region in which to house a regional arts development body. No town met all our criteria: access, capacity, cost and arts activity. But after considerable research into three locations, our regional council decided that Brighton met more of these criteria than Guildford or Woking.
We are taking the opportunity to be based in one of Britain's newest cities with a vigorous artistic, intellectual and economic community that is far removed from your editorial's stereotype of the "domain of the white middle classes". Brighton has some of the most socially disadvantaged wards in a county that is among the poorest in the country. But we have not been engaged in competitively weighing up indices of social deprivation. Social inclusion and cultural diversity are among our top cultural policy objectives, but we are not falling into the trap of confusing appearance with substance. We will need to develop new ways of working, and will be setting up regional access sites in other parts of the region. Where our main office is based is less important than how we work to improve the quality and accessibility of our service.
We knew our relocation would be controversial, wherever we decided to go, especially considering the weak transport infrastructure in this ?rather unwieldy? region. But we stand by our choice, which we believe offers real opportunities for the arts in the region.