The red dust of the Mundi Mundi Plains just out of Broken Hill, NSW, has settled after the third Mundi Mundi Bash. Much more than just a rock concert, for three days it becomes a mini city and the biggest caravan park in the world.
For three days in August, the privately owned Belmont Station on the iconic Mundi Mundi Plains just out of Silverton, NSW, becomes the location for the largest caravan park in the world (well, at least Australia) for the annual Mundi Mundi Bash.
Affectionately known as ‘Bashville,’ this mini city of a record 12,246 people in about 4500 caravans, camper trailers and RVs and a handful of tents and swags emerges from the desert plains with military precision. Rigs of all shapes and sizes are spread over 5000 sites in a semicircular plot of roads and interconnecting pathways, forming a spectacular backdrop for this fantastic event.
Bash founder and CEO Greg Donovan told me that he’s estimated the combined total value of all the RV equipment on site including vans, campers, motorhomes and tow vehicles at about $1 billion, based on a figure of $200,000 per rig. My guestimate is more conservative based on the rigs I observed while sitting in the line waiting to get into the site. Even at $100,000 per rig, there’s $450 million worth of vehicles sitting at Bashville. The true figure probably lies somewhere between the two.
Regardless of what they’re worth, these rigs travelled a combined 27 million kilometres to this iconic location 40km from the outback NSW city of Broken Hill for three days of music, mateship and so much more.
Rigs of all sizes rolling into this year's Bash (Image Matt Williams)'Bashville' is a mini city which emerges from the plains in a matter of days and then disappears again (Image Matt Williams)
The accidental music promoter
The story of festival owner and founder Greg Donovan is well known. In 2012, he took on a global desert running challenge which saw him run 250km across a desert on four of the world’s continents. At the time, no such challenge existed in Australia, so he created the Big Red Run, staged in the Simpson Desert, just outside of Birdsville, Queensland, to raise funds for medical research into Type 1 Diabetes with which his son had been diagnosed.
Festival founder Greg Donovan (Image Matt Williams)
Legendary Australian musician John Williamson was organised to play on top of the Big Red Dune for runners and volunteers at the conclusion of the inaugural run in 2013. A small number of tickets were sold to the public to help towards the costs of the performance and the Bash was born. Over six years (2013–18), the Big Red Run raised more than $1.1 million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
In 2014, the lineup expanded into two days of Aussie music with onsite camping. A crowd of 1200 turned out to the festival, well short of the numbers required to cover costs. Donovan knew the potential for a music festival in such an amazing location was obvious, the challenge was now attracting enough people to make the festival financially sustainable and continue to invest in great Australian talent.
In 2015, Donovan left the insurance sector where he’d worked for 20 years and made the risky decision to invest his superannuation in the artists, marketing, staffing and infrastructure and hoped that the crowds would come. Jimmy Barnes fronted the lineup along with Jon Stevens, Diesel, The McClymonts and more. More than 3000 people attended, had a fantastic time and continued to spread the word far and wide.
This year the 10th Birdsville Big Red Bash was held in July. It is now the most remote music festival in the world, attracting a who’s who of Australian music royalty and 10,000 revellers annually.
Donovan explained the rationale for creating the Mundi Mundi Bash, first held in April 2022, which is accessible on sealed roads and close to the big regional city of Broken Hill.
“We wanted somewhere that was going to be more accessible, as about 80 per cent of the caravan market is people with on-road vans and a lot of those people are not keen to do a lot of dirt road travel,” he said. “We wanted to provide the Big Red experience to those people with normal vans or motorhomes or a sedan or SUV with camping gear.
“We wanted to be able to pick up that whole experience and drop it into an awesome outback area and close to an iconic outback town that people want to visit.”
The Mundi Mundi crowd peaked at 12,246 this year — setting the current record — and while there is capacity to grow it further, Donovan said they will assess it after this year’s three-day event.
“Up to a certain size the event is great — there’s a real buzz about the place but I don’t want to grow for the sake of growing and get to the point where it has an effect on the experience for people, where they have to wait longer in queues or walk further distances to get to facilities.”
At this stage there are no plans for any further Bash locations. Donovan is now in his 60s and is handing the mantel over to his adult children who are taking on more day-to-day responsibilities at the events. Besides, he and his wife have their own caravan and are keen to do some travelling.
Numbers and logistics
With an event of the sheer size and scale of the third Mundi Mundi Bash, the numbers are mind-boggling:
- 427 volunteers
- 425 dogs
- 200,846 cans recycled
- 27,153 plastic bottles recycled
- 200,000 litres of water saved
- 630 composting loos
- 615km of loo paper used
- $162,000 in funds raised for the Royal Flying Doctor Service
- 6594 people danced the Nutbush to break the world record
- 80km/h maximum wind speed — a storm came through on Thursday night just after Hoodoo Gurus which sent tents and umbrellas flying and awnings ripped from caravans.
Bashville is a mini city which emerges from the plains in a matter of days and then disappears again, leaving nothing in its wake. There are roads and pathways, all signed so you can find your way back to camp. However, there are also many ingenious ways that campers ‘signpost’ their campsites, ranging from flags to flashing lights.
There is no phone reception, but public wi-fi was available for purchase in the plaza area. More than 20 food vendors provided everything from coffee and juice to pizzas and arancini. There was a giant merchandise tent, an FM radio station, a dedicated app for your phone to access the concert and activities schedule easily, a medical centre, vet, firewood, ice and a huge number of stallholders including local artists from the West Darling Arts Precinct in regional NSW.
Dunny angels and others
Volunteers get a free ticket to the Bash and the best campsites in exchange for a few hours work each day undertaking a multitude of tasks before, during and after the event. They come from all walks of life and bring a huge and diverse range of life skills and work experience with them. Volunteer places go very quickly.
Jobs include set up and pack down, traffic marshalling, working in the merch tent, electricians, general hands and the famous ‘dunny angels’ who keep the 630 composting toilets clean and stocked with paper and sawdust. While the thought of attending an event with more than 12,000 people using more than 600 compost loos sounds off-putting, these are some of the cleanest and least smelly dunnies you will ever see at a mass participation event.
More than music
6594 people danced the Nutbush to break the world record for 2023 (Image Matt Williams)
In between the three days of Aussie rock music, there are a multitude of events and activities that make the Bash so iconic, including a few attempts to beat world records.
This year’s Mundi crowd broke the Guinness World Record for the number of people dancing the Nutbush, almost 50 years to the day that the song was released by Ike and Tina Turner. A total of 6594 — including yours truly — kicked up the dust for a total of five minutes to beat the previous record set at the Big Red Bash in July. At $15 per person to enter, this event alone raised more than $160,000 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
There was also an attempt at the world record for the number of people dressed as characters from Mad Max 2 — the 1981 iconic post-apocalyptic action thriller directed by George Miller and filmed on the Mundi Mundi Plains where the Bash is held.
The Mundi Undi Run is another fundraising event for the RFDS in which festivalgoers don their best boxers, briefs, bras, bikinis and budgie smugglers for a 1km run or walk around Bashville. While some of the costumes go a bit outside the brief — think incontinence wear and crocheted elephant undies with appropriately placed trunks — it is laugh-out-loud funny and all for a great cause.
The 2023 Mundi Undi Run in action (Images Matt Williams)
The doggos didn’t miss out — there was a fashion parade just for pooches as well as Mundi’s Got Talent, camel rides, scenic helicopter flights, dunny door painting, a petting zoo and sunrise yoga each day.
The music lineups at Bashes over the years is a who’s who of Australian rock royalty.
John Williamson played guitar on the top of Big Red at the first Bash in 2013, but he has returned many times since, along with the likes of this year’s headline act — Icehouse — and Paul Kelly, Jimmy Barnes, John Farnham, Midnight Oil, Missy Higgins, Lee Kernaghan, Daryl Braithwaite, James Reyne, Mark Seymour, Kasey Chambers and Kate Ceberano.
Many are regulars at both Birdsville and Broken Hill including Shane Howard, Russell Morris, Glenn Shorrock, Ian Moss, The Angels, Mi-Sex, Dragon, Chocolate Starfish and Furnace and the Fundamentals. Human Nature headlined the Saturday night set at Mundi Mundi this year — their first and hopefully not last appearance.
This year’s set also featured a special tribute to Tina Turner who passed away in May aged 83 years. Some of this country’s best female vocalists including Kate Ceberano, Wendy Matthews and Grace Knight belted out some of Tina’s best-known hits which got the crowd on their feet.
Get ready for next years event!
The music lineup for the 2024 Mundi Mundi Bash and further event information can be found on the Mundi Mundi Bash website.
Tickets to the 2024 event are now on sale, so grab yours to help make it the biggest event yet.
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