Andrew and Peta Murray from Top Wire Traveller travel all over Australia in their truck camper. They volunteered for the Big Red Bash at Birdsville, the most remote music festival in the world. Here’s a summary of their experiences.
Volunteering at The Big Red Bash. Music, mayhem… and a whole lot of fun!
Dust, dirt, live music, entertainment, crowds, dancing, festival atmosphere, fantastic people… this is the Big Red Bash.
Held every year in front of Big Red sand dune 35km west of Birdsville, the Big Red Bash (BRB) has exploded. In 2013, a handful of people watched a couple of acts on top of the dune. Six years later, the BRB is a world-renowned music festival.
People travel from all over Australia and indeed all over the world to experience the most remote music festival on the globe. This is truly a family-friendly event.
And if you volunteer, an already brilliant experience is even better.
A pop-up town
Without volunteers, the BRB simply wouldn't exist. Over 500 people help out before, during and after the 3-day music festival. They travel from all parts of Australia. Some have made the annual pilgrimage as volunteers, five years in a row!
What keeps drawing them back? The atmosphere and the satisfaction of being involved in something unique.
Just making it to the BRB is an achievement… 1,580km from Brisbane, 1,930km from Sydney and a whopping 4,000+ km from Perth. It's a long way from anywhere!
Imagine two huge red sand dunes running north-south and spaced a couple of kilometres apart. In between is the normally dry lake bed of Lake Nappanerica. Like most of this country, it's covered in spiky, dried out bushes full of burrs and thorns.
Somehow, the BRB organisers turn this into a town (Bashville) of over 10,000 people. Then when the concert’s over, it reverts back to desert again… as if nothing ever happened here.
Concert night at the Big Red Bash. With the sun setting over Big Red, the dust rises from the concert area, as close to 10,000 people dance the night away.
And this is where the volunteers come into play. They are the hands and bodies who help set up, pack down, run merchandising, show every single camper into their camp spot, keep the traffic under control, help build the stage, set up the electrical systems, and even mingle with the crowd to make sure everyone is happy and doing the right thing.
The volunteer road marshals keep the endless procession of vehicles flowing smoothly into Bashville.
In return, you get a free ticket and a few special privileges… early entry, a separate camping area close to the main arena, a merchandise pack and a thank you get-together at the end.
However the main benefit is a common bond, a sense of camaraderie. By the end of the event, you all have a special connection and a sense you've been a part of something pretty big.
And you get to see a showcase of top Australian bands, all playing in front of an enormous sand dune.
What you can expect
You need to expect the unexpected. Behind the scenes is (extremely well) organised chaos. The ticket-paying public doesn’t see this though. All they see is a fantastic event, which runs like clockwork.
The event organisers do an extraordinary job under pressure. Even the logistics of managing the 20 or so different volunteer crews every day is huge. And this is but a small part of what they do.
Expect lots of dust, heat, dust, a touch of sunburn, dust… and 10,000 happy people all having a great time. Oh, and did I mention dust?
A huge plume of dust settled over the camping area as thousands of campers rolled into the Big Red Bash. It’s all part of the fun!
Peta was part of the road marshalling crew. They shepherded the endless lines of vehicles rolling into Bashville, guiding them firstly to the right “street” then onto individual campsites.
As expected, all the road marshals disappeared under clouds of thick dust. But none of them minded a bit.
Carloads of happy people, kids hanging out windows wide-eyed and excited, and the occasional apprehensive dog sniffing the air uncertainly from the back seat. Sedans, caravans, camper trailers, buses and even a couple camping in a semi trailer! They were all there and all in a good mood.
I (Andrew) was part of the pack up crew. We spent the first day walking, pulling down several kilometres of ropes and posts, which marked walkways and roads. With more than two thirds of the campers gone, the site was remarkably clean and tidy.
And I lost count of the number of times I was thanked for being a volunteer.
A volunteer pack-up crew pulling down the many kilometres of ropes and posts in the campground.
While none of us volunteered just to receive accolades, it was a good feeling. It meant we had collectively done a good job and it's refreshing for the general public to notice how hard the volunteers worked.
Speaking of hard work…
If you're considering volunteering, you'll need a certain level of fitness. Many roles mean you'll be on your feet for hours at a time, either walking long distances or being active. You work pretty well non-stop during your shift.
Certain jobs require a minimum level of trade skills. For example, the electricians and builders must have a trade and the scaffolders need a ticket.
And if you're wondering about safety, the organisers have this covered. A team oversees safe work practices and every team leader keeps a close on eye on their crews.
Would we do it again?
In a heartbeat. As a volunteer, you're part of something special. On the one hand, you're one of the crowd at the most remote outdoor concert in the world. On the other, you're part of a close-knit team who form a close bond and work together to make this concert happen.
Not only this, you'll meet fantastic people from all walks of life and from all around the world.
It hits you a few days after the BRB is over, “Wow, that was amazing. And I helped to make it all happen”.
Bring on BRB 2020!