South by Southwest festival cancelled over coronavirus


One of America’s most famous music festivals, South by Southwest, has been cancelled due to coronavirus fears.

Organisers of the annual event in Austin, Texas, said they had no choice but to call it off for the first time in its 34-year history.

The move was ordered by Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who declared “a local disaster”.

The US coronavirus death toll stands at 17, but over 200 people have been confirmed sickened nationwide.

All but one of the deaths have occurred in Washington state.

Despite the Austin mayor’s declaration of a local disaster – a largely administrative step – none of the six coronavirus cases recorded so far in Texas are in the state capital.

The World Health Organization says nearly 100,000 people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus. More than 3,000 people have died – the majority in China.

In a statement on Friday, SXSW said it was “devastated” by the news, but respected the decision.

Event organisers said: “‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place.

“We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”

Some of the event’s biggest exhibitors – including Apple, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook – had already pulled out.

The 10-day event attracts leading figures from the spheres of technology, music and media to mingle in the Texas capital.

Last year SXSW drew nearly 74,000 people with over 19,000 coming from outside the US.

In 2018, visitors spent $350m (£270m) during the festival, according to a study commissioned by event organisers.

The event’s organisers had been under pressure to call it off. A petition to that effect on received 55,000 signatures.

Several other large tech conferences have been cancelled in recent weeks including Google’s Cloud Next conference, Mobile World Congress and the Game Developers conference.


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