Yungaburra QLD Au 27-29 Oct 2023

Songwriter’s Competition

Proudly sponsored by:

Get inspired!

Listen to the winning song, “The Bounding Main” by Imbibers– winners of the 2019 TFF McGinty’s Songwriter Competition recorded at BUZZ music as part of the prize.

ReadTHE PRIZE THAT KEEPS ON GIVING, Thoughts on my mentor and me” by Shirley-Ann Rowley, the 2019 winner of Emerging Artist competition.

The History

In 2012, the Songwriter’s Competition sponsored by Atherton Trophies was reintroduced to the Tablelands Folk Festival with songwriters able to present their songs for the opportunity to win a prestigious award associated with the Tablelands Folk Festival event. In 2015 additional endorsement for the competition from McGinty’s Irish Bar saw it named McGinty’s Songwriter Competition.  With additional sponsorship since 2016 from Buzz Music, Cairns Voice Studio and Coconut Groove Studio, be assured that this is a competition well worth winning. In 2018, a grant was received from APRA/AMCOS Music Fund supporting the interests of Australian composers and/or songwriters.

Award Winning Songwriters

Our award winning songwriters over the years have been:-

  • 2021 – Best Song Open: Reuben Dwyer | Open Songwriter: Rowan Sizer & Alice Fitzgerald | Highly Commended: Ingrid Piper | Best Song Emerging: John Rainbird | Emerging Songwriter: Isabella Allison | Encouragement: Kevin Hazell
  • 2020 – Best Song Open:  Jane Cornes & Neil Steward | Open Songwriter: Madeleine McCaw | Highly Commended: Ella Hartwig | Best Song Emerging: Alice Owen | Emerging Songwriter: Danielle Davis |Encouragement: Emily Lane & Antonia Gwenyth
  • 2019 – Best Song: Trevor Jackson | Open Songwriter: Jimmy Bay | Emerging Songwriter: Gary Smyth | Highly Commended: Sabine Bester | Encouragement: Jeremy Fletcher
  • 2018 – Best Song: Reuben Dwyer | Open Songwriter: Amber Farnan | Emerging Songwriter: Shirley-Ann Rowley | Highly Commended: Gar MacLeman | Encouragement: Darren Crosthwaite
  • 2017 – Best Song and Open Songwriter: Rebecca Drollinger   Emerging Songwriter: Samantha Norris
  • 2016 – Best Song and Open Songwriter: Tim Borella Emerging Songwriter: Amber Farnam
  • 2015 – Lucky Phil
  • 2014 – Katie Jay
  • 2013 – Steve Williams 2013 – Liliana Pacheco who won the Ken McKay Memorial Songwriter’s Competition for Under 18’s. Her prize was a beautiful Tanglewood Guitar personally signed by inspirational Tablelands’ songwriter, Ken McKay.
  • 2012 – Ray Danes


Saint Mark’s Anglican Church,
7 Eacham Road, Yungaburra

What’s happening this year

ENTRY: $10 eTicket required.
This year registrations for Emerging will open at 9.30am for a 9.45 start.
 Open Category registrations will open at 12.45pm for 1pm start.


The competition is open to all songwriters and is not genre specific. Contestants may enter ‘one category only’ – either Emerging or Open. Note: Conditions apply for entry into Emerging.
The competition for the Emerging Category will take place on Saturday morning with registration commencing at 9.30am and the Open Category will take place on Saturday afternoon with registration commencing at 12.45pm.
Fifteen (15) entry places are available for the Emerging Songwriter Category.
Fifteen (15) entry places are available for the Open Songwriter Category.
All online entries will close at end of day on October 17th or earlier if entry places are filled.
On the day of the competition, applications may still be received if there are places available.
On the day of the competition, if all entry places are filled, a Reserve List will compile further names to offer a place if there are any cancellations or ‘no shows’.

Prize Information

Our categories and their prizes are as follows:
Note: In COVID circumstances, prize variation may occur.

Best Song – Open

Best Song: “Record that Single” Prize Package – OPEN
Sponsorship prize from: Buzz Music

The winner will be awarded 2022 Tablelands Folk Festival Best Song – OPEN

Prize Pack includes:
Record the winning Song
at Coconut Groove Studio, Kuranda.
* 4-hour Full Studio and Recording Engineer Hire – Value $400
* Recorded Single fully mixed and mastered – Value $200
* Physical and Digital copy supplied to artist (Included)
*Star turn on the Fringe Stage

All contestants entered in OPEN category are automatically competing for Best Song – OPEN

Best Song – Emerging

Best Song: “Record that Single” Prize Package – EMERGING
Sponsorship prize from: Coconut Groove Studio

The winner will be awarded 2022 Tablelands Folk Festival Best Song – EMERGING CATEGORY

Prize Pack includes:
‘Record the winning Song at Coconut Groove Studio, Kuranda.
* 4-hour Full Studio tracking time plus mixing and mastering.
* Audio engineer included
*Star turn on the Fringe Stage

All contestants entered in EMERGING category are automatically competing for Best Song – EMERGING

Open Songwriter Category
Open Songwriter Category: “The Real McCoy” Prize Package
Sponsorship prize from: McGinty’s Irish Bar

The winner will be awarded 2022 TFF Open Songwriter

Prize Pack includes:
*’The Real McCoy’ cash prize
*Name engraved on TFF McGinty’s Songwriter Competition perpetual shield
Value: $300
*Star turn on Pub Lounge Stage at the festival

Emerging Songwriter Category
Emerging Songwriter Category: “Mentoring Magic” Prize Package
Sponsorship prizes from: Cairns Voice Studio and Atherton Trophies

Conditions apply: To enter this category you must agree to the conditions of the competition for Emerging Songwriter Category and affirm that… You have not had any of your songs released for commercial sale nor aggregated to Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, or similar online distribution service and that you are not a main stage [ie. Pub Lounge, Community Hall, Garden Stage] programmed performer at the festival. Previous winners of Emerging Category and Best Song Emerging can only re-enter the competition in OPEN Category.

The winner will be awarded 2022 TFF Emerging Songwriter

Prize Pack includes:
‘Mentoring Magic’ with Keesha Mclean Cairns Voice Studio
*2×1 hour Vocal Coaching and Vocal Health Sessions   – Value $200
*2×1 hour Performance & Industry Mentoring Sessions – Value $200
* Performance Opportunity will be offered
Value: $400+
*Individual trophy donated by Atherton Trophies
*Star turn on the Fringe Stage
Note: Emerging Songwriter Category does not need to have had extensive industry experience and will be recognised for their talent potential.

Special Award Certificates

‘Encouragement Award’

Sponsorship Prize from: Buzz Music School
$200 Music Lesson Voucher
*Star turn on the Fringe Stage

‘Highly Commended Award’

Sponsorship Prize from: Cairns Voice Studio
1 ½ hours Voice, Performance & Industry Session – Value $150
*Star turn on the Fringe Stage

*All prize winners are advised to contact their prize sponsors as soon as possible after the festival to arrange the collection of their prize.

Entry Requirement

All contestants are required to perform an original song on the day that has not been recorded for commercial sale nor aggregated to Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, or similar online distribution service.  Each contestant must be the writer of the song entered. Two co-writers can be accepted as an entry. One person only for accompaniment may be permitted for a solo performer. Rhythm machines, backing tracks and midi files are not permitted for entry to this competition. 


The judges for this year’s competition are: Jeanette Wormald, Fiona Sewell, Karen Stewart and Shirley Lynn.  Each judge will evaluate the songwriter’s performance and their song to decide the winners.  Each contestant in the competition will be provided with a Certificate of Participation and a Judge’s Evaluation Summary in relation to their song and performance of it.

Contestants are encouraged to bring three (3) copies of their song lyrics to the competition to be handed to the judges prior to their performance. (Contestants will not be penalised if they do not provide the lyrics, but it may be helpful to the judges to view the lyrics on paper as the song is being performed.)

The competition this year will be judged on the following criteria:
Emerging Songwriter & Open Songwriter Categories:
Lyrics, Melody & Musicality, Structure, Originality, Song Attributes and Performance
Best Song:
Lyrics, Melody & Musicality, Structure, Originality and Song Attributes


Registration is now closed for the 2022 TFF McGinty’s Songwriter Competition.