Artists and poets have been told their subject matter is too controversial and upsetting to be shown in Brighton.

The exhibition, which illustrates victims' accounts of domestic violence and paedophilia, is being welcomed in Haywards Heath and Hastings.

Called The Survivors, it has been produced by people who have endured harrowing experiences. It includes poetry and computer art to raise awareness of the issues.

Artist Phil Lancaster, 52, from Haywards Heath, said: "It is funded by the Millennium Commission and we have had support from the Mind Survivors' Network in Brighton.

"We were hoping to take it to Brighton but have had problems getting an exhibition.

"One place said it was booked up although I'm sure other artists wouldn't mind sharing with us.

"Another place said the images were too shocking. They said the pictures were not the sort of things people would like to look at while having a coffee.

"I thought Brighton was a thriving vibrant art centre."

Phil's work illustrates poetry by John Hirst and JC McFee. They met through a survivors' magazine run by John. All three have endured horrendous ordeals and their words and pictures reflect that.

Some of the images are too graphic to be shown in this newspaper. They include scenes such as gang rape.

Haywards Heath town clerk Carole Preston was unsure what residents would make of the controversial subject matter.

She said: "Twice we have had art exhibitions here and we said we would support any local people who want to do things like that.

"This is the first exhibition like this we have had, though.

"We didn't know what it was about until this week but the people behind it explained and told us how they have come out the other side."

Beatrice Cole, education and outreach officer for the White Rock Theatre, Hastings, was delighted the show would be there, though no one under 16 will be allowed in.

She said: "It is quite a disturbing subject matter but I think it's really good it is being addressed."

Lucy Parker, of Brighton-based Sussex County Arts Club, was surprised the city was not more receptive to The Survivors.

She said: "Things like this have been exhibited here before and I can't see why there would be a problem. You would think they would be turning down nice water colours rather than something with guts."

The Survivors opens in Haywards Heath Town Hall on September 30 for a week and arrives at the White Rock Theatre on October 14.