Manitoba musicians face show cancellations abroad, including massive SXSW festival, amid coronavirus fears
Several Manitoba artists had planned to be part of the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas
A group of Manitoba musicians are feeling the impact of COVID-19 outbreaks abroad as shows and festivals are being cancelled over public health concerns.
Singer-songwriter Faouzia cancelled a show in Cairo, Egypt, this week, and at least five other Manitobans slated to be part of South by Southwest (SXSW) this month in Austin, Texas, learned Friday the giant music, film, and new technology festival has been cancelled.
"Shocked, to be honest," said Sean McManus, executive director of Manitoba Music, on Friday. "It's one of the most influential music festivals, really, in the world."
Local musical acts Boniface, Roman Clarke, Begonia and Sebastian Gaskin, along with filmmaker Malcolm Ingram, all planned to attend SXSW, which was slated to start March 13.
SXSW released a statement explaining it was the City of Austin's choice to axe the festival, despite assurances from local health officials who stated as early as Wednesday that cancelling the festival wouldn't make the city safer.
There are currently no cases of COVID-19 in the Texas city, according to the City of Austin, though there have been several in San Antonio and elsewhere in Texas.
"It seems clear that there wasn't really a public health emergency," said McManus.
"It really seems to be that the hysteria has overtaken the public health [concerns] probably on this front."
An Update on SXSW 2020. Please read our full statement here: <a href="https://t.co/P56nF8KFmE">https://t.co/P56nF8KFmE</a> <a href="https://t.co/ouJPKM9GNy">pic.twitter.com/ouJPKM9GNy</a>—@sxsw
McManus said there are still questions around whether insurance providers will cover cancellations related to coronovarius.
In most cases, anyone who purchased regular travel insurance can only expect to be reimbursed for coronovirus-related cancellations if trips were booked before the federal government issued an advisory against non-essential travel to the destination.
Travel health notices have been issued so far for China, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, northern Italy, Singapore and South Korea.
Gaskin had a few showcases lined up, along with meetings with industry people in Austin.
"It's a big festival: it can be a turning point for a lot of musicians," said the Cree musician from Split Lake.
But he says he saw this coming.
"I'm a little disappointed it's cancelled, but safety is definitely most important."
McManus agreed safety is the priority. Manitoba Music will continue to work with artists to see how the industry group can help them deal with the fallout, he said.
"For the artists, there's such a big investment into these kinds of events, [and] tour dates scheduled around it. Things get cancelled all the time for various treasons, but this is a big one.
"We really feel for the artists."
Watch microbiologist Keith Warriner describe how to stay safe while travelling right now:
With files from Leif Larsen