The Spirit of SXSW Lives On
National Geographic Books Production Manager Lisa A. Walker recently returned from Austin’s annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music, film and interactive conference and festival, where the performances did more than just entertain.
The real spirit of Austin’s South by Southwest festival this year went well beyond the films and music. Something inspiring happened at SXSW last month, and it is continuing to make an impact right now.
On the first day of the festival, March 11, Japan suffered its most devastating natural disaster in 100 years. At the kick-off to SXSW, one of the largest media-related conferences in the world, a group of bloggers, technology experts, speakers and artists banded together to create SXSWcares, a campaign to raise money to aid Japan. SXSWcares soon transformed into sxsw4Japan.org, and within 24-hours, this very dedicated team had created a buzz on Twitter and the Web, and generated more than $7,000 in donations for the Red Cross relief efforts. Almost a month after the end of the conference, the donations have reached $124,000 and are still climbing.
Initially started by SXSW attendees CauseVox‘s Rob Wu, and bloggers Leigh Durst, Jess Lin and Deb Ng, the group soon partnered with SXSW organizers, which then led a number of musicians (starting with the group Hanson) to get involved. The collaboration resulted in a 12-hour live music streaming telethon on the SXSW4Japan website featuring over 40 musical performances. The telethon has since become an album (available on Amazon) with 100 percent of the proceeds going to disaster relief in Japan.
Yasushi Tsugihiro, a video journalist from Tokyo, attended SXSW this year with the intention of capturing the “the spirit of the festival.” However, as the events quickly unfolded in his home country, the nature of his trip and coverage quickly changed. His very moving video “My SXSW Experience” just recently posted on http://sxsw4japan.org/ shows how empathy and support of the festival attendees (including SXSW Asia), combined with the dedication of the Japanese artists that chose to stay at the festival during a very difficult time, turned into a philanthropic movement.
In the words of Sir Bob Geldof, the keynote speaker at this year’s SXSW music festival, music is “America’s great cultural gift to the world,” with the power to inspire. This year’s 25th anniversary proved to be that and more. The collaboration of people with the power of music, amplified by social media, created a campaign that reached out across the ocean to help those on the other side of the world.
Although SXSW has ended, the disaster in Japan, sadly, is far from over. To find how you can help, visit sxsw4japan.org to make a donation, and learn how to start your own fundraising page.
SXSW, which ran from March 11th– 20th this year, is likely the largest music, film, and interactive convention/festival in the world. This year alone, 2,000+ artists were scheduled to perform, spread out across 79 venues and 92 stages, and nearly one-third of those acts represented 61 different countries. For details on attending next year, visit www.sxsw.com.