One of the world's biggest arts festivals, South by Southwest, has been cancelled due to the coronavirus.

In a statement posted to the website of the event, styled as SXSW and held in Austin, Texas, organisers said:

"The City of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW and SXSW EDU. SXSW will faithfully follow the city's directions.

Talking Heads' David Byrne was one of the big name participants at last year's South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Photo / AP
Talking Heads' David Byrne was one of the big name participants at last year's South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. Photo / AP

"We are devastated to share this news with you. '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.

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"As recently as Wednesday, Austin Public Health stated that 'there's no evidence that closing SXSW or any other gatherings will make the community safer.' However, this situation evolved rapidly, and we hono[u] r and respect the City of Austin's decision. We are committed to do our part to help protect our staff, attendees, and fellow Austinites.

"We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utili[s]e SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.

"We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it's true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals."

South by Southwest is an annual package of music, film, tech and media festivals. The music component is one of the world's best shop windows for up-and-coming acts to showcase their talents.