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Mercury Songwriting Contest

Here at the Mercury we really do believe we can improve the world one song at a time and that’s why we’re over the moon to announce our brand new songwriting contest.

Mercury Songwriting Contest

in association with PERFECT PITCH       

We love to present new musicals and showcase the talents of songwriters whenever we can, and in this period of uncertainty we felt this was a great opportunity to discover some new voices.

The competition is aimed at nurturing the music talent of any songwriters of any age and experience, and promote excellence in the art of songwriting.

We’re delighted that producers Wendy and Andy Barnes from Perfect Pitch, who we partnered with on our production of Pieces of String, will lend us their ears for the entries. They also produce the award-winning hit musical SIX and together we are offering a prize of £500 for the winning and smaller amounts for the runners up.

We are inviting composers, musicians and songwriters to submit an I Want song – the song that sets out the leading character’s dreams and desires, connects us emotionally to them and makes us want to go on the journey with them. Make sure you check out Gus Gowland’s Top 5 I Want songs and why he thinks they stand out and a little message from our pal, Tim Minchin!


Willy, Millie and Joseph were told about this competition by a friend and immediately decided to work together on it from three separate parts of the UK. They say “It was equally challenging and rewarding for us to create music separately, but so important for us to use our combined passion to tell a story that is current today”.

WILLY MUKENDI : Music/Lyrics

Willy is the runner of the UK’s largest musical theatre Facebook fan page, MTAS, home to over 50,000+ theatre fans and industry professionals. She was the 2018 Inspired Champion award winner, recognised and awarded at the Olivier Awards. She is in the process of writing her third musical, with her most recent, Catfish the Musical available now on all major music stores.

JOSEPH RILEY : Music/Vocalist

Joseph is a first year student at trinity Laban. A training performer, musician, MD and song written. He has written several scaled back musical, often utilising resources and performers at trinity to explore his shows. He has been selected to perform with the likes of Alice Fearn and Luke Bayer on various concerts.  Joseph has worked very hard to establish himself as a hard working and enthusiastic performer who brings his fun and lively personality into everything he does.


Since being a performer in the National Youth Music Theatre, Millie has been a Music educator, practitioner and performer for nearly 30 years. She is a regular musical director, pianist and multi-instrumentalist for Musical Theatre, Choral, Rock and Pop, and Educational projects across the Southwest, including at the Eden Project, the Minack Theatre and with the British Theatre Academy. Having specialised in composition at the University of Sheffield, she has enjoyed composing and arranging across all genres as well as successfully teaching composition to GCSE and A level students.

VOICE OF THE FUTURE AWARD WINNER - Jade North with "Say My Name"


I have played guitar since I was aged 7 and began songwriting shortly afterwards though not always successfully!  My ambition is to have a career in the performing arts and, in pursuit of that objective, I am taking Music A-level (amongst my other subjects) at Colchester Royal Grammar School.

I won the Essex Songwriter of the Year competition for 2017 and went on to publish my own album of self penned songs under the title of Bit by Bit which is available on all major streaming platforms, such as Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music. Promo over!

I love performing and have played at a number of open air festivals as a solo acoustic guitarist and singer, including Greystock (Wivenhoe) and Colchester’s Youth Music festival in Castle Park. I have also played charity gigs, one alongside a local professional musician/songwriter.

I was a runner-up in the arts category at Colchester Youth awards in 2018 and am a member of the FaNS network which provides entertainment at local care homes, amongst its other objectives of acting as a good friend and neighbour.

During lockdown, I was fortunate enough to have one of my songs selected to be played on BBC Radio Essex and to be interviewed live. It was a little nerve wracking but really enjoyable at the same time.

I was a member of the junior chorus of the Colchester Mercury’s professional panto for three years which was both enormous fun and hugely inspirational to see professionals at work, both in front of and behind stage.  In short, I love to perform whenever the opportunity arises in music, dance and acting.  My songwriting gives me the chance to voice my own thoughts and feelings in a way that feels completely natural for me.  The songs do not always come out as I would have  wanted but they are all still personal to me.

THIRD RUNNERS UP - Isla van Tricht & Guy Woolf with "My Turn"


Isla van Tricht is a playwright, librettist and videogame writer whose recent work includes: Becoming Electra (UK tour, ★★★★ Wee Review), Tits N Teeth (Underbelly, Edinburgh ★★★★ The Scotsman) and Great Again (VAULT Festival ★★★★ Miro) with Guy Woolf. She is a member of the Hampstead playwriting group and represented by Alex Bloch at 42.


Guy Woolf is an actor, director and composer. He is Creative Director and Co-Founder of new theatre company represent. dedicated to redressing the socioeconomic imbalance in the industry. Recent work as a composer includes: Sixth Form Romeo, a musical by Nigel Williams and Great Again (Tristan Bates and VAULT Festival, winner MIRO magazine pick of the festival) with Isla van Tricht.

VALERIE: The CORRECT account of activist, writer and genius Valerie Solanas, who famously wrote the SCUM manifesto, and also shot Andy Warhol, as told by herself and her friends. is the second musical Guy and Isla have written together.

SECOND RUNNERS UP - Sam Norman & Earl Marrows with "The Greats"


Sam Norman is a young British rhymester with a passion for musical theatre. His three full-length musicals, written with composer Aaron King, have been produced across the UK, and he has authored a book of comic poems, A Teen’s Guide to Modern Manners (Little, Brown). He is a prizewinning translator of poetry, has sung in the UK’s oldest student a cappella group, and graduated from Oxford University in 2019 with a first-class degree. He is currently studying for an MFA in musical theatre writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and can be found at


Earl Marrows is an Australian-born musical theatre composer. He has written music for both stage and screen, including three original musicals, two of which (Pining for Affection: A Tree Musical and Tone Death: A Ghost Musical) received full runs at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. His music also appeared every Friday night at 7pm on the ABC’s hit sports talk show Sideliners. He is currently studying for an MFA in musical theatre writing at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

JOINT RUNNERS UP - Carlo Bosticco & Matt Randall with "My Own Other Half"

Carlo Bosticco and Matt Randall are an international writing duo, currently working on four musicals and counting. They are proud members of Mercury Musical Development.

Their shows have undergone workshops in both New York City and London.

Excerpts of their upcoming debut musical “Chasing Icarus” have been selected and performed by the Symphony Orchestra of Guiyang, China.


(book, music and lyrics)

On top of his work with Matt, Carlo has provided additional lyrics for Travels with my Aunt by Broadway veterans George Styles and Anthony Drewe. Carlo is also the lyricist for pop act ÅRI ÅNNA.

As an actor, Carlo is soon to be seen in Roman Holidays (Leicester Curve and West End).

Other acting credits include King Ludwig II in My Parsifal Conductor (Off-Broadway), the Olivier-Award winning production of La Bohème by company OperaUpClose (London), From Stage to Screen and Back Again (West End), Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (Teatro Stabile di Verona, Italy).


(music and arrangements)

In addition to his musical theatre work with Carlo, Matt is co-writer for pop singer-songwriter Hege.

Matt also works in the music industry as a performer and he is currently accompanying international drag superstar La Voix on her fabulous UK tour.

Theatre credits include: Wicked (UK tour and West End), Avenue Q (UK tour), Godspell (Lyric theatre and UK tour), Annie (UK tour), Jesus Christ Superstar (UK tour), Blood Brothers (UK tour), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK tour) and others.

Matt has worked as a Music Producer for RTL Television in Germany, Music Producer/Arranger for West End Live in London, and Composer for Fiction Factory Productions in Cardiff.

Tim Minchin's Announcement

We think this contest is really special, so we had to get someone amazing to announce it! Who better than Australian comedian, actor, writer, musician, composer and lyricist, Tim Minchin?!

In case you didn’t know, Tim wrote the music and lyrics for musicals including Matilda and Groundhog Day, he has also released 6 albums, toured the world with his comedy shows and starred in the UK stadium tour of Jesus Christ Superstar as Judas.

Terms and Conditions

It’s super simple.

Anyone living in the UK can take part.

Your song can be any music genre.

Contestants should submit ONE genuinely, original song each. (Multiple entries will not be considered)

There should be no more than 3 writers per song.

Entries should be no more than 5 minutes in length.

Just write it, record it and send it as a web-link (YouTube/Vimeo)* to

Our selection panel will listen to all the tracks and announce the winner on Friday 12th June.

We will be judging entries on
• Creativity
• Originality
• Lyrics
• Melody
• Arrangement

Submissions welcomed from May 12th
Closing date for entries is June 3rd
Winners announced on June 12th

Creativity knows no bounds when you’re stuck at home so we’re looking forward to hearing your musical genius.

*I’m afraid we’re unable to accept any other form of application

Gus Gowland's Top 5 I Want Songs

1. Part of Your World – The Little Mermaid

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman revolutionised the Disney musical with this movie and all of their work includes brilliant ‘I Want’ songs. They often combine the ‘I Want’ with the opening number (see ‘Belle’ in Beauty and the Beast) but here they let Ariel have her moment and what a moment it is! The song makes us feel like we know Ariel and tells us everything we need to know about what she wants. It manages to do it with a gorgeous, simple melody, too. Perfection.

2. Some People – Gypsy

Gypsy is pretty much the perfect musical and this song is one of the best in a score filled with standout songs. The music by Jule Styne has brilliant pace which mirrors the energy fighting to burst out of Rose. Sondheim’s lyrics are witty (of course!) and help us understand who Rose is. By the end of the song Rose has stolen her father’s plaque and we know the lengths she will go to for stardom and to ensure she doesn’t end up like ‘some humdrum people’. This gets a spot for that triple rhyme alone!

3. Corner of the Sky – Pippin

Years before Stephen Schwartz wrote a little show called Wicked (which has its own great ‘I Want’ song in ‘The Wizard and I’) he gave us this gem. Rather than singing about what he wants, Pippin sings of how everything around him seems to have its place, except for him. It’s a lovely way to tell the audience that he feels out of place and unfulfilled without saying it directly. The music has a folk/pop feel and the imagery in the lyric add to the pastoral vibe, all of which combines to show Pippin as charming & humble. Gorgeous.

4. Roxie – Chicago

Not so much an ‘I Want’, more a ‘I’m Darn Well Gonna Get’ song, this jazzy number by Kander and Ebb perfectly captures the insatiable appetite for fame that propels Roxie through the show. The entire show is presented as a vaudeville and so this number is Roxie’s chance to have the star number she longs for. It’s a brilliant old-school showstopper with satirical bite. It also includes the brilliant line, ‘who says that murder’s not an art?’, which works as a tagline for both Roxie and the entire show.

5. My Shot – Hamilton

This is a great example of an ‘I Want’ song which doesn’t really tell us what the protagonist actually wants! All we know is that Hamilton isn’t throwing away his shot, but we don’t know (and nor does he) what that shot will be. It’s all about character building and showing us that, like Rose in Gypsy, he will go to almost any lengths to get what he wants. When the lyric states ‘I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry’ he becomes indelibly linked to the history of the US and we know that he’s a fighter. The rap music style feels instantly contemporary despite the historical setting. Play it loud and I defy you not to feel inspired after listening to this!

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