CITY arts leaders gathered at Southampton's £30million new arts complex for a special event. They were there to witness the signing of a formal agreement between Arts Council England and Southampton University.

The Memorandum of Agreement - a document more formal than a gentleman's agreement but not legally binding - has been offered to only a handful of organisations around the country.

Although it's not a contract and doesn't guarantee any cash input head of Arts Council England Darren Henley said it's an "endorsement" of Southampton University's commitment to arts and culture - and is one step further in recognising Southampton as a future cultural hot spot.

Speaking to the crowd gathered at the John Hansard Gallery on Wednesday afternoon Mr Henley praised city arts organisations for the work they are doing - and stressed the city's strategic position as a port for welcoming visitors to the UK.

He said: "I'm very jealous of people who live in Southampton. Investment in arts and culture in the city is up 22 per cent from last year. We have got six National Portfolio Organisations. You are the gateway for people coming into the UK. That's really exciting. You are not just a port - you are a portal."

The document was signed by Mr Henley and Vice Chancellor of Southampton University Professor Sir Christopher Snowden before guests were treated to tea, cake and entertainment from musicians from the city's professional orchestra, Son.