This autumn sees the return of the BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition, which invites amateur composers, budding songsmiths and music lovers to write a tune or melody to new lyrics by the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage.


Inspired by a transformative visit to the Arctic, Armitage's poem considers the natural world around him, Polaris considers the importance of cherishing and protecting our natural world.

Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage says: 'I was thinking about the concept of a white Christmas, and how snow is so much a part of our festive imagery despite there being less and less of it in the UK at that time of the year.

'I'd just returned from a trip to the Arctic and didn't see much of it there either - the lyric describes Christmas in a warming world. I was hoping to write something that might appeal to people of different backgrounds and different ages, with a narrative and maybe a slight nursery rhyme or nonsense feel to it, but with a serious and timely message at its heart. I don't think there are any other carols that begin with the words "The police…!”'

To celebrate the contest’s 10 year anniversary, this year's Carol Competition has added an 11-15 year old category, allowing budding young composers to take part for the first time. This new category will run alongside the regular 16 and over category.

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As with recent years, all entries will be considered equally with all judging based solely on the quality of the tunes alone, and with the panel given no information about the person behind each entry. Once again, entries can be submitted as notated scores or phone voice recordings. Eight shortlisted finalists will have their compositions arranged for the BBC Singers, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

This year's judges include, among others, BBC Proms presenter Clive Myrie; Daniel Hyde, director of music at King’s College, Cambridge; and Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah from the Ascension Choir, the gospel music ensemble who performed at the Coronation of King Charles III.

Four entries from each category will be shortlisted to go through to the second phase of the competition, when the successful entrants will get to work with composer Iain Farrington to transform their melodies into fully harmonised Christmas carol arrangements.

The eight arranged carols will then be recorded professionally by the BBC Singers, and performed live on BBC Radio 3 Breakfast on Thursday 14 December, opening the public vote.

The carols will be heard across BBC Radio 3 programmes until Wednesday 20 December, when voting closes. The winning carol will be announced in Radio 3’s Breakfast show on Thursday 21 December and played on Christmas Day and throughout the festive season.

To find out more about how to enter and to submit melodies for BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition 2023, visit Deadline for entries is 23.59pm on Tuesday 1 November.



Steve Wright
Steve WrightMulti-Platform Content Producer, BBC Music Magazine

Steve has been an avid listener of classical music since childhood, and now contributes a variety of features to BBC Music’s magazine and website. He started writing about music as Arts Editor of an Oxford University student newspaper and has continued ever since, serving as Arts Editor on various magazines.