Episode 4 - Greg Donovan, Founder of the Big Red Bash, Birdsville & Mundi Mundi - OFFGRID DOWNUNDER

From a corporate career in insurance, to a real life struggle with mental health and his teenage son’s life-threatening medical diagnosis, to ultra-marathon running, raising over $1M for Type 1 Diabetes, and then becoming one of Australia’s biggest and most successful music promoters with the world-famous Birdsville Big Red Bash… Greg Donovan would have to be one of the most interesting and yet humble people I’ve ever met!

Greg is the founder, creator and ‘Head Honcho’ of The Big Red Bash, originating in 2013 with John Williamson singing and playing on top of the Big Red sand dune, as a side gig to their ultra-marathon fund raising event, the Big Red Run. It’s such an honour to have Greg as our guest this week on the OFFGRID DOWNUNDER show, where he shares a lot of the little known behind-the-scenes stories, and gives some insight into what drove him to create the music festival.

Famously known as the world’s remotest music festival on the planet, the Big Red Bash at Birdsville, and it’s counterpart, Mundi Mundi Bash held out of Broken Hill, sees thousands of people from around Australia, and the world, head into the desert every year for these iconic events.

What you might not know is that the Big Red Bash is entirely funded by Greg and his wife Raylene, and it ran at a significant loss in its first year. Greg never intended to be a music promoter. He was an ultra-marathon runner and more interested in his Big Red Run Simpson Desert 250km event, but when he saw that people were showing more interest in the music event that went alongside it, he and Raylene personally backed the concert in 2014, that attracted 1,000 people and ran at a significant loss. (They budgeted for 1,500 attendees to break even.)

To make matters even worse, Greg returned to his day job in Sydney (which he’d held for 20 years in insurance) and was made redundant! Fortunately he was given a golden hand shake $300K redundancy pay, but instead of paying himself back for the loss they’d incurred, he invested it all into getting Jimmy Barnes and other major music acts to attend the 2015 Bash, to attract a bigger audience, and the 2015 Big Red Bash operated with a modest profit that saw 3,000 people heading out to the Simpson Desert! (Which I’m proud to say I was one of them!)

Fast forward to today, some ten years later, and the Big Red Bash has evolved into the world’s most remote music festival, drawing over 11,000 visitors to the red centre in 2023. It’s a celebration of Australian music, culture, and the great outdoors, where campers from all walks of life come together for an unforgettable experience under the desert stars.

Greg jokes and calls it the “biggest caravan and camping display ever”!  And for multiple years MDC Campers and Caravans were proud joint sponsors of the Big Red Bash, supporting this iconic event and its mission to bring people together in the heart of the outback. And now the MDC AUSRV Owners Group, has formed such a special bond with the Big Red Bash team (made up mostly of the Donovan family!) that each year, we gather at the festival grounds, known affectionately as the ‘MDC Paddock’, to enjoy the music, the atmosphere, and the company of fellow MDC enthusiasts.

So, whether you’re rolling up in your MDC camper or caravan or pitching a tent under the desert sky, the Big Red Bash promises an adventure like no other. I’m really excited about this interview with Greg Donovan, he is such a visionary and inspiration to all who hear his story. I’d love you to discover why it’s become a highlight on the calendar for so many MDC campers and adventurers alike.

Personally, this one will be my fourth Big Red Bash, and I’ve been to Mundi Mundi once. If it’s something you enjoy the first time, it’s something that you never tire of because no two events are the same.

Tune in to our episode and enjoy. Greg’s story is just incredible. And if you’d like to join us in the MDC Paddock, get in touch and we can forward you the link. Until next time, happy trails and keep exploring this amazing country!

Melissa J Scott
MDC Community Manager

Many thanks to:

Greg Donovan, Birdsville Big Red Bash
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BirdsvilleBigRedBash
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bigredbash/
Website: https://bigredbash.com.au
Contact: https://bigredbash.com.au/contact-us/

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