Tech and culture festival SXSW cancelled over coronavirus fears

Jay Janner/Associated Press
  • The tech and culture festival SXSW has been cancelled because of coronavirus fears.
  • On Friday, the mayor of Austin, Texas, announced that the event would not go ahead on March 13.
  • The coronavirus outbreak has caused major disruption around the world, hampering business supply chains and causing the closures of offices and public events.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

South by Southwest, the annual technology, film, and music festival in Austin, Texas, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, the latest cancellation in a string of high-profile events that have shut down amid the widening health scare.

On Friday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced a state of disaster and that this year’s event – which had been due to kick off on March 13 – had been cancelled.

SXSW, as South by Southwest is known, is a freewheeling nearly two-week long celebration of emerging tech and media that attracts movie stars, industry leaders, and influencers. Before the event’s cancellation, more than 35,000 people signed a petition urging the organisers to call off the event because of the coronavirus, and numerous major companies had pulled out – including Facebook, Twitter, Intel, and TikTok.

Cancelling the festival could represent a big blow to the Austin local economy. South by Southwest estimates it brings about $US350 million to Austin each year. It was not immediately clear if people or companies who bought tickets to the event would be issued refunds.

In a statement, the SXSW organisers said that as recently as Wednesday, Austin’s department of public health had said there was no evidence that shutting down the event would make the community safer. “However, this situation evolved rapidly and we respect the city of Austin’s decision,” the statement said.

“We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites,” SXSW said, adding it was the first time in the event’s 34-year history that it would be cancelled.

The event is one of several major events and conferences that have been cancelled amid the growing coronavirus outbreak. The major tech-industry conference Mobile World Congress was called off, the Game Developers Conference was postponed, Facebook cancelled its F8 conference and its marketing summit, and Google cancelled I/O, its yearly gathering for developers.

The coronavirus, which began in Wuhan, China, two months ago, causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19. Cases have been recorded in 70 countries, including more than 100 in the US. More than 100,000 people have been infected, and more than 3,000 people have died from the virus. The vast majority of cases are in China.

SXSW, which was first held in 1987, said in a statement on Friday that it was looking into rescheduling the event, as well as providing an online alternative.

“We are exploring options to reschedule the event and are working to provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants,” the organisation said.

Here’s the full statement from SXSW:

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