MANIPULATE Festival 2021: Commission Opportunity

Note: this commission callout is open to artists from a wide range of disciplines including puppetry, physical theatre, visual arts, design and animation. We actively encourage those who are under-represented in the arts to apply, including D/deaf or hard of hearing and other disabled artists, artists of colour and working-class artists and welcome a conversation with you about how we can support you either to apply or during the project 

Commission Fee: £3k for new work or variable rate for adapted work (details below) 


Puppet Animation Scotland is excited to offer a new installation design commission opportunity for the MANIPULATE Festival 2021. Artists are invited to propose ideas for one of 6-10 small commissions to create installation pieces which can be enjoyed by audiences during our winter festival no matter what state of lockdown we find ourselves in. Each piece will form part of a storytelling/kinetic sculpture trail which audiences can follow clues or a map to discover.

The MANIPULATE Festival takes place at the end of January and beginning of February every year. Taking an initial seed of inspiration from Bocaccio’s 1353 novel The Decameron, where ten strangers shelter together in hiding from the Plague, finding their way through the quarantine by telling each other stories, we want to offer audiences glimpses into magical miniature worlds which bring joy and escapism in this unsettling time. We are looking for artists to create installation pieces which audiences will enjoy for three-minutes each as part of a self-directed BSL and audio trail. The trail is currently planned to travel to three cities across Scotland, more details of planned locations to follow.

Each work will consist of:

  • A designed visual installation piece which could occupy a space in a shop window or gallery (unattended) and in some way incorporates motion. Materials used might include puppets, found objects, designed elements, miniature figures, animated content on screens, amongst many other options. Motion could be simple or complex, examples include automata or other use of motors, animation on embedded screens, wind, water, gravity/weight or other mechanisms.
  • An accompanying three-minute soundscape or BSL video which could consist of an existing piece of poetry, a piece of original music, some atmospheric sound, an extract from a classic novel, or anything else which can fit into three minutes. Each piece with an accompanying soundtrack will be required to have embedded BSL interpretation, which Puppet Animation Scotland will support with the delivery on.

Artists may wish to pitch an idea for an entirely new piece of work – we are keen to hear about your exciting new thematic or aesthetic seeds of ideas in response to this brief. The starting point for this might be to take an existing piece of text and create a micro landscape in response to this, or to build from a visual idea outwards.

We also welcome applications from artists who would like to adapt existing puppetry or visual artwork to fit this context. In that instance, we’d be keen to hear how you could adapt the piece to exist unattended without human manipulation, and why you think the work might make an exciting addition to this project.

Things to Note:

  • Artworks should be self-contained, easily transportable and no bigger than about 2m wide and high by 1m deep. They must function safely unsupervised – we can offer support and advice on electrical safety. Each piece should run from a single 13a socket. Works should be robust enough to run unattended for up to 10 days at a time but will not be handled by the public.
  • Artists do not need to be experts in automata to apply – motion can be created in many ways i.e. a turning record player. We also encourage artists who are not designers/makers to approach the brief in unusual ways (for example aerial or physical theatre artists). N.B. the installations themselves will not include live performance but can feature screens. Works should engage the attention for three minutes.
  • We are delighted for artists to apply with an adaptation of existing work, however, pieces should be an artwork within themselves and not an advertisement/trailer for a separate piece of work
  • The MANIPULATE Festival is aimed at an adult audience and therefore we are not specifically targeting families with this project – artists should feel free to explore ideas which are playful and bring joy but are not afraid to include a little edge and darkness. That said, the visual aspect of the works will likely be on display in public locations, so artists should avoid content which might be deemed inappropriate or cause offence.
  • Given the fee level advertised, we are keen to stress that these are small artworks, miniature ideas, which will come together to form a complete artistic experience. The fee level is calculated to reflect this – this is not a full-scale sculpture commission, nor a commission to create a completed theatre piece. It is one little story, one world, as part of a larger whole. We expect that artists will use the majority of their budget to pay for their own time.
  • Artists currently supported by Puppet Animation Scotland through other programmes, and PAS artist board members are welcome to apply. No applicants will be involved in any way in the selection process.
  • Applicants must be based in Scotland to apply for this opportunity, owing to the logistics around transport and maintenance of work, particularly in the context of COVID-19.

The commission fee available for a new idea is £3,000. For an adapted existing work we propose a fee of £1,500, however, we recognise that in some cases it may cost more or less than this to adapt your work. Therefore we are open to a conversation with artists who may wish to request more or less that £1,500 in order to adapt a work.

Your commission fee should cover:

  • Your own fee or fees for all contributing artists
  • Materials for the creation of the work
  • All audio costs other than those listed below (for example if you require a performer to read some text aloud, or need to secure rights to include some music, you must pay for this from your budget)

Puppet Animation Scotland will cover:

  • Creative feedback & support throughout with concept development and realisation
  • Production and technical support throughout, including with functionality and safety
  • Supervision of installation pieces when in location
  • Recording and audio editing (editing and tidying of recorded files rather than full sound design)
  • All other presentation costs including ticketing, marketing, liaison with sites and transport between tour locations

More information about the wider festival programme will become available over the coming weeks. Keep an eye on our social media & sign up to our newsletter as we will be releasing more information about MANIPULATE Festival 2021.


All artists submitting ideas should include the following:

1. Expression of Interest 

Please send a brief expression of interest, which can be in either written OR video form. These should be around 300-500 words, or around 1-2 minutes if filmed – we welcome applications in BSL

In your expression of interest, you should state whether it’s a new idea or an adapted work. You should reference the concept for the work, materials or techniques you might use, and your idea for the audio track or any accompanying language. We encourage you to also consider in brief what the experience might be for audiences/how they might be drawn into your world.

2. Links to Previous Work

We just want to get a brief sense of your practice and aesthetic, so you can do this in whatever way suits you best. Suggestions might be:

  • A link to your website indicating your previous work and aesthetic
  • Two images of your previous work and a couple of sentences about your practice

Please send all expressions of interest to

3. Fill in our voluntary Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI)

Puppet Animation Scotland aims to provide equal opportunities and fair treatment for all applicants. We ask you to spare a couple of minutes to fill in our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion form. The results are anonymous and used to provide an overall profile analysis which will help us understand who we are reaching and to better serve everyone in our community.

The closing date is Thursday 22 October at 12noon.  

Expressions of interest will be considered by Puppet Animation Scotland’s Artistic Director in consultation with the staff team and external freelance artists. We will invite a longlist of artists to a further brief informal chat with us, for which they will be paid a nominal stipend of £20 for their time.

Please send your expression of interest in a format that is accessible to you. If you require this information in an alternative format, please get in touch: We will provide BSL support for applicants who are D/deaf and Hard of Hearing for online communications and meetings.

Final commissions will be selected by 5 November, and commissioned artists will have until mid-January to complete the work. The installation dates are still to be finalised but will run from late January for 2-4 weeks.

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