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SXSW Forced Into Staff Layoffs Following Cancellation
Christian Eede , March 10th, 2020 18:31

The annual Austin festival was called off last week due to concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus

Austin festival SXSW has laid off around a third of a its 175 year-round employees as a result of the cancellation of this year's edition last week.

The festival, which has been held annually in Austin since 1987, was called off for the first time last week as a result of concerns around the spread of the novel coronavirus, AKA COVID-19. The cancellation meant that the festival incurred heavy financial losses while further losses are expected across the local economy as a result of the loss of tourism.

In a statement provided to the Austin American-Statesman, SXSW's parent company, SXSW LLC, said "[we have] been rigorously reviewing our operations, and we are in the unimaginable position of reducing our workforce." The statement adds: "We are planning for the future and this was a necessary, but heartbreaking, step."

Austin Mayor Steve Adler declared a local disaster in the city on March 6, and put into effect an order that forced the cancellation of this year's SXSW. Complying with Adler's order, representatives from the festival said that same day that they were exploring options to reschedule the event.

SXSW brings in more than 100,000 visitors to Austin each year. Representatives for the festival fear that they could lose millions as a result of the cancellation, particularly as SXSW LLC confirmed to the Austin Chronicle that it does not have insurance protecting against this particular type of cancellation.

"We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather)," SXSW co-founder and Managing Director Roland Swenson said. "However, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered."

Elsewhere, the spread of COVID-19 has also led to the cancellation of events such as Ultra Music Festival in Miami, Taiwan's Organik Festival and the Beat Hotel's festival in Marrakech. Meanwhile, it's been reported that one of the US' biggest festivals, Coachella, is looking into postponing this year's edition from April to October.

Caterina Barbieri has been forced to cancel a run of five US tour dates, which had been due to kick off on March 18, as a result of the lockdown order that was put into place today (March 10) across Italy by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti, while Miami's annual Winter Music Conference, scheduled for next week, has also been pulled.

In the UK, this weekend's Bang Face Weekender is still expected to go ahead with no orders on mass gatherings having yet been put into action by the government.