The BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition returns once again, inviting  amateur composers, budding songsmiths and music lovers to write a tune or melody to new lyrics by Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage.

Inspired by a transformative visit to the Arctic, which has since shaped how Simon Armitage considers the natural world around him, Polaris considers how important it is to cherish and protect 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 competition’s 10 year anniversary this year, there is the special addition of an 11-15 year old category, allowing young, budding composers to take for the first time. This new category will run alongside the regular 16 and over category, with a winner being named in each category.

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.

In charge of shortlisting the finalists is a star studded panel of judges including TV presenter Clive Myrie and presenter of Blue Peter, Mwaksy Mudenda. Also on the panel is Daniel Hyde, Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge as well as Beverley McGeown who runs Open Arts Community Choir in Northern Ireland. Chairing this year’s illustrious set of judges is Abimbola Amoako-Gyampah from the Coronation Gospel Choir, 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 have the chance to work with one of the country’s top arrangers Iain Farrington (also one of the twelve Coronation composers) to transform their melodies into finely crafted and 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 14th December, opening the public vote. The carols will be heard across BBC Radio 3 programmes until Wednesday 21st December , when voting closes. The winning carol will be announced in Radio 3’s Breakfast show on Thursday 21st 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, music lovers are invited to visit the competition website at Deadline for entries is 23.59pm on Tuesday 1st November.