Traditional Singing Competition

PLEASE NOTE: Online versions of our competitions are not currently scheduled during our Online festival.  That situation may change or the competitions may be scheduled later in the year. 

A traditional singing competition has always been a part of Girvan Folk Festival and for a few years we also had a ‘Songs of the Sea’ competition recognising Girvan’s history as a fishing port.

Historically, Traditional singing competitions have been popular events at Scottish festivals, often offering unique opportunities to hear great songs sung in nice acoustic spaces and many of us have wonderful memories of individual performances. I for one recall hearing Gordeanna McCulloch singing Poor Rovin’ Lassie at a TMSA event. It was the first time I had heard that particular song and the experience will live with me forever.

 Among our guests are quite a few people who are respected as traditional singers. Longer term, the festival has ambitions to develop some form of mentoring scheme, but we hope that informal opportunities to meet and discuss with some of the singers will fill the space meantime. 


Entrants to the competition will be expected to be participants of the Festival, which will typically mean that they will be ticket holders for one or more events. Access to specific mentoring opportunities will generally be restricted to full participants of the festival, although the overall aim is to encourage traditional singing and each request will be considered on an individual basis particularly if any entrant for any reason is not able to fully participate over the weekend.

What do we mean by a ‘traditional song? Over the years some competitions have taken a very strict view on what is a traditional song, even going so far as to disqualify someone for singing, for instance, a Burns song even though it had clearly entered the tradition. It will be up to our judges to decide what characteristics of any performance define it as being traditional. My personal view (Pete Heywood) is that the tradition is a continuous thing and we can’t exclude a song purely on the basis of the fact that we know who wrote it. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every song is a traditional song – but we are sensible people and we know what we mean. (Even though we might argue about it, and even be open to changing our view!)