A guide to Scotland's cabaret, circus, magic and puppetry festivals and organisations

A guide to Scotland's cabaret, circus, magic and puppetry festivals and organisations

Groups and festivals working in live art, including Conflux, Club Noir, Manipulate and Surge

Standard theatre and comedy offerings not enough for you? Looking to take inspiration from the more niche corners of the performing arts scene? Read on!

Cabaret artiste

The neo-burlesque scene has gone mainstream thanks in no small part to the efforts of Club Noir, which runs events all over the country from its base at the O2 Academy in Glasgow. Claiming a place in Guinness World Records for being the biggest burlesque club in the world, it programmes DJs, divas, bands, films, fetish acts, comedians and variety stars.

Circus performer

With an interest in street theatre and circus skills, Conflux offers support, training and international residencies to anyone who wants to get physical. Based at Glasgow’s Arches, it runs the biennial Surge festival, which takes place in theatres and on the streets, and keeps in touch with performers on the internet via the Scottish Street & Circus Arts Network (SSCAN).

Live artist

The recent demise of New Territories and the associated National Review of Live Art may have closed down one career path, but performance artists don’t play by the rules and continue to pop up where you least expect them. That may or may not be at the Arches and the Tramway in Glasgow, at various art school hang-outs or at Summerhall, the watch-this-space newcomer in Edinburgh.


Since its launch in 2010, the Edinburgh International Magic Festival has doubled its ticket sales and will be back pulling rabbits out of hats 28 June–5 July 2013. Its programme draws from far and wide, attracting performers from the Ukraine, Germany and France as well as closer to home. In addition to close-up magic, large-scale illusions and street entertainment, the festival runs masterclasses and a magic school.


The organisation with its fingers on the strings is Puppet Animation Scotland which, as well as running the Puppet Animation Festival, the UK’s largest performing arts event for children, also programmes Manipulate, an annual festival of object theatre for adults, starting to expand outwards from its base at Edinburgh’s Traverse.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Manipulate Festival

Puppet Animation Scotland collates a collection of world-class animation, puppetry and related performing arts of all styles and techniques from a range of international artists and companies.

Various venues: Edinburgh

Fri 28 Jan

Times vary / 0131 600 0699

Sat 29 Jan

Times vary / 0131 600 0699

Sun 30 Jan

Times vary / 0131 600 0699

…and 6 more dates until 5 Feb

Club Noir's Christmas Party

Two world-class burlesque shows at this reliable staple of the Glasgow scene, while DJ Loveless plays vintage and modern music. Dress up is actively encouraged, but no jeans or trainers.

Edinburgh International Magic Festival

MagicFest presents a full programme of close-up conundrums, mind-boggling illusions, comic cabaret and other feats of the impossible. The festival features workshops as well as shows.

Puppet Animation Festival

The UK's largest and longest established annual performing arts event for children pulls some strings to present a feast of puppet-based entertainment, working with local authorities, organisations and venues throughout Scotland.