The Brighton Festival, which was due to take place in May, has been cancelled for the first time since it was founded in 1967.
It has also emerged that the Brighton Fringe has been postponed, with organisers hoping to move it to later in the year.
Brighton Festival was due to take place from May 2 to 24, with more than 120 cultural events scheduled across the region, including 17 premieres, commissions, co-productions and many festival debuts from international artists.
Festival staff are understood to be working with artists and partners to discuss whether some events can happen at a later date or in a different way, but ruled out rescheduling the festival as a whole because of its scale and the amount of international artists it features.
Brighton Festival chief executive Andrew Comben said: “The Festival team is devastated that this incredible programme, led by guest girector Lemn Sissay, won’t happen this year and that audiences won’t experience the diversity of artists coming from across the world to our city.”
He added: “It seems to us that we need imagination, creativity and the strength of our community now more than ever. We are exploring what might be the most creative contribution the festival and its artists can make at this time and we will share more on this when we can.”
Customers who have booked tickets for events will be contacted about refund information. However, Brighton Festival is a registered charity and warned that almost two thirds of the festival costs would have been covered by ticket sales.
“Ticket holders are being offered the option to donate some or all of their ticket purchase in order to help support the festival’s future and its work with artists and community partner organisations,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Brighton Fringe said it was postponing its event.
Chief executive Julian Caddy: “On behalf of the thousands of people who have invested so much in putting on Brighton Fringe, I am devastated to say that we are unable to proceed in May due to the Coronavirus outbreak.”
He added: “After consulting with key stakeholders we are looking to reschedule Brighton Fringe to take place in September and October, when we have been advised that it will be again safe to proceed. We do not know yet what this Brighton Fringe will look like but we will now work with all our participants, venues and partners to make it the best it can be for all involved.”