Songwriter’s Competition

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Get inspired!

Read “THE 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 and Cairns Voice 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:
2018 – Best Song: Reuben Dwyer | Open Songwriter Category: Amber Farnan | Emerging Songwriter Category: Shirley-Ann Rowley | Highly Commended: Gar MacLeman | Encouragement Award: Darren Crosthwaite
2017 – Best Song and Open Category: Rebecca Drollinger | Emerging Category: Samantha Norris
2016 – Best Song and Open Category: Tim Borella | Emerging Category: 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 Church, Yungaburra.
Saint Mark’s Church, Yungaburra is such an amazing acoustic space and it will be our venue again this year, a place where songwriters can stage the performance of their songs for the competition.

What’s New this year:

This year the competition will have a nominal entry fee of $10.
Entry fee can be paid at online ticketing, festival ticketing or at the competition venue on the day.  Weekend and Session ticket holders will be excluded from paying the fee.

Included this year will be an Industry/Performance session with Keesha McLean while judges deliberate the winners.


The competition for the Emerging Category will take place on Saturday morning commencing at 10am and the Open Category will take place on Saturday afternoon commencing at 1pm.
Twenty (20) entry places are available for the Emerging Songwriter Category.
Twenty (20) entry places are available for the Open Songwriter Category.
When entry places are filled, applications for the category will close.
On the day of the competition, applications will 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’.


There will be three main competition categories again this year. Our categories and their prizes are as follows:

Best Song: “Record that Single” Prize Package
Sponsorship prizes from: Buzz Music Recording Studio

The winner will be awarded 2019 Tablelands Folk Festival Best Song
Prize Pack includes:
‘Record that Single’ at Buzz Recording Studio, Cairns.
* 6 hour Full Studio and Recording Engineer Hire ($420)
* Recorded single fully mixed and mastered ($200)
* Physical and Digital copy supplied to artist (Included)
*Star Turn on the Fringe stage at the festival
All contestants entered are automatically competing for this prize.

Open Songwriter Category: “The Real McCoy” Prize Package
Sponsorship prizes from: McGinty’s Irish Bar and Buzz Music

The winner will be awarded 2019 TFF Open Songwriter
Prize Pack includes:-
*’The Real McCoy’ Paid Gig Spot at McGinty’s Irish Bar, Cairns
*Name engraved on TFF McGinty’s Songwriter Competition perpetual shield
*Music Voucher ($100) donated by Buzz Music
Value: $355+
*Star turn on main performance stage at the festival

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 or published for commercial sale and state that you are not a main stage [ie. Pub Lounge, Community Hall, Garden Stage] programmed performer at the festival.

The winner will be awarded 2019 TFF Emerging Songwriter

Prize Pack includes:
‘Mentoring Magic’ with Keesha Mclean Cairns Voice Studio

*2×1 hour Vocal Coaching sessions with Keesha McLean – $170 value

*1×1 hour Performance and Career Mentoring Session – $90 value

*1×45 minute set Live Performance Opportunity at a Cairns/FNQ event or Festival with publicity/promotional exposure included – $100 value

*Individual trophy donated by Atherton Trophies

Value: $360+
*Star turn on the Fringe Festival Stage

Note: Emerging Songwriter Category does not need to have had extensive industry experience and will be recognised for their talent potential.

A Certificate of Participation and a Judges Evaluation Summary in relation to each song and performance will be available for each contestant at the end of the competition.

Special Award Certificates

‘Encouragement Award’
Sponsorship prize from:  Buzz Music
* 2 hour vocal and music industry business coach – Value $100

*Star Turn on the Fringe Festival Stage

‘Highly Commended Award’

Sponsorship prize from: Cairns Voice Studio
* A 45minute gig at a Cairns live music venue – Value $100

*Star Turn on the Fringe Festival Stage

Entry Requirement:

All contestants are required to perform an original song on the day that has not been recorded for commercial sale. Each contestant must be the writer of the song entered. Rhythm machines, backing tracks and midi files are not permitted for entry to this competition. Optionally, one person only for accompaniment will be allowable. All contestants are asked to arrive at least 10 minutes prior to commencement of the competition.


The judges for this year’s competition are: Bob Elliston, Jeanette Wormald 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


$10 entry fee is payable at online ticketing, festival ticketing or at the competition venue on the day.

Weekend and Session ticket holders will be excluded from paying the fee.

When the date for Songwriter’s Competition EOI is open, click the Songwriter’s Competition link on the page footer below under “HOT DATES”