Social Microbes residencies open call

**This call is now closed**

About the residencies

We have several paid residencies available on the theme of Social Microbes. Residencies are a chance to step away from your usual situation, working in new surroundings, on a new topic, for a short period of time. You can use the time to develop risky new ideas or develop an existing project in a unique environment, with our support.

What are Social Microbes?

Microbes often display social behaviours that benefit their community as well as themselves. Just like in human societies, sometimes there are ‘cheats’ who contribute less than their fair share. This raises a question – what keeps bacteria cooperating with each other? This is a surprisingly important question, because bacterial cooperation has implications for how our ecosystems function and for human health.

For example, mining generates enormous amounts of toxic waste, but bacteria have evolved ways to reduce levels of toxic metals. One way the bacteria do this is by producing small molecules called ‘siderophores’. The bacteria pump these molecules into their environment, where they bind to toxic metals, which stops the metals being absorbed and poisoning the bacteria. This behaviour benefits the individual bacteria, but also benefits their neighbouring community of other bacteria.

Understanding when and why different bacteria cooperate means we can predict how bacteria explore their environment and maybe even harness these behavioural interactions to our own benefit. We already routinely use bacterial behaviours for things like fermentation of food and drinks, but similar behaviours could also be useful for reducing the uptake of toxins into crop plants that are grown in contaminated soil, or cleaning up mine waste.

Who can apply

We don’t want to be prescriptive about what you do. You might be an artist, designer, maker, tinkerer, musician, chef, writer, grower, scientist, poet, dancer… or something else. The residencies can be individual or shared by more than one person, for example a collective or family.

Where the residencies are based

The residencies will be based at one of three possible hosts in Cornwall, each offering a different environment and facilities:

  • Wheal Martyn - a museum based within two Victorian china clay works, now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, set in 26 acres with woodland and views over a working china clay pit. Wheal Martyn is in the village of Carthew, between St. Austell and Bugle. This is a socially deprived area, and it is a priority to be welcoming to local community - other themes of interest include the local environment and landscape. Facilities include:
    • Various locations for exhibiting work
    • Options to exhibit big outdoor photos
    • Museum collection and archive materials that residents can use
    • An office the resident can work in on Tuesdays and Fridays
    • Learning space for events (can be accessed in wheelchairs)
  • Fish Factory - a multifunction arts venue with Work Spaces, a Gallery, a vegan Café, an Event Space and a small music shop. The Fish Factory regularly hosts national/international residencies, and is also partnered with Sirens Studio (a gender inclusive recording studio). The Fish Factory is a Community Interest Company in Penryn, near Falmouth. The venue offers a warm space for the local community with high quality arts activities, visual arts exhibitions and live events. Encouraging new audiences into the space is a current priority. Facilities include:
    • Dedicated desk space in the Fish Factory
    • Gallery and events space
    • Cheap basic accommodation (in a room above a shop on the same road, not accessible, kitchenette, toilet, but shower is in a separate building) at £20/night
  • Soul Farm - a 3.5-acre no-dig market farm growing seasonal vegetables near Flushing in the Falmouth area of Cornwall. Soul Farm (Community Interest Company) is a food justice-oriented, ecologically supportive organisation, organised around making good food accessible to all and around restoring local people’s relationships with the land. Residency outputs that include outdoor events are of particular interest, as is anything to do with food - Soul Farm are particularly interested in artists, designers, musicians, chefs, writers and poets. Facilities include:
    • A market garden where you can help out and work on the land
    • Possibility to exhibit work or run events outdoors or in the greenhouse - various temporary tent structures may also be available to use
    • There is no desk space on the site, but there is a picnic bench, and tea and coffee making facilities!

The residencies are funded by Dr. Elze Hesse’s UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship at the University of Exeter, and are designed and run by non-profit organisation Then Try This.

Both Elze Hesse and Then Try This will be actively involved in supporting the residents. Elze will give a talk (online) on her research for all residents together before they begin, to help hone your ideas, and will be available throughout the residencies. All residents can also use the Then Try This studio in Penryn, where we have work space, lots of equipment (some can be taken out of the studio) and a large events/workshop space (with a kitchen, huge table, and a piano) that could be used on evenings and weekends.


Again we don’t want to be too prescriptive. You could make and exhibit something, try out a new workshop format, run an event, or something completely different. It’s a good idea to think about how your project idea might suit the host you’re interested in. The work produced during the residency needs to be made freely available using open-source methodologies (e.g. Public Domain or Creative Commons licences) - if you’re not sure what this means for you, get in touch! At the end we’d like you to make a short blog post, graphic, or video covering your time on the residency – that we can share on the organisers’ and host’s websites/social media. Consider how you can maximise the legacy of your work by making images, methods, software etc. freely available.


Application deadline - 28 February 2023

Shortlisting and recruiting - mid-March 2023

Residencies start - from late March 2023

The residencies can’t run over school holidays as we won’t all be on hand to support you, and they must be completed by September 2023.


For Wheal Martyn you’ll have £2000 for 2-4 weeks work. For the Fish Factory or Soul Farm you can either apply for £2000 for 2-4 weeks work, or for £1000 for 1-2 weeks work. We will take one resident for Wheal Martyn, one or two for the Fish Factory and one or two for Soul Farm - our total residency budget is £6000. You can work full or part time, in-person or remotely.

You can use the budget however you like - you can take it as a fee and/or use it for materials, travel, accommodation, childcare or anything else you might need. You’ll need to invoice us, half up front and half at the end, and we can help if you’ve never made an invoice before. We pay quickly, so don’t worry about it taking ages to come through. We can help you organise travel and accommodation if needed. If you choose the Fish Factory as your host and are interested in their accommodation, do get in touch for more information. The other hosts do not have accommodation available, and do not have good public transport, this is a fairly remote and rural part of the world (which is why we love it!).

How to apply

We would like you to provide the following in a single document (max 2 pages long, the shorter the better), emailed to us by 28 February 2023 (end of the day, midnight UK time is our cutoff!):

  • An outline of who you are, what you would like to do, and how it fits with the social microbes theme (500 words max, images are fine too)
  • What the outcomes might be - and how these would be made available to people (150 words max)
  • Which host/s you are interested in
  • Preferred budget (£2k or £1k), length and dates for when your residency would take place (these don’t need to be precise yet, and if you have no budget/length preference that is OK just write a note to tell us that)
  • Whether you’d like to do the residency in person, online or hybrid.
  • Link/s to your work online (personal website, social media, anything you like that will show us what you do)

If you’d prefer to send a video application, just email a link to your video (max 5 mins long). If you have any questions for us before applying, do get in touch - we’ll also do our best to accommodate any adjustments to the application or residency format that you need, so let us know if we can help in any way.

During shortlisting we may need to get in touch with you to check information before making a final decision - please make sure you check your spam (especially if you’re a gmail user, as gmail is particularly bad for this). We always reply to every applicant with basic feedback, so if you don’t hear from us, it’ll be in your spam.

** Additional Information added 7 Feb 2023 **

Dr. Elze Hesse's research uses bacteria from mine-degraded soils as a model system to investigate the conditions under which bacteria best work together to detoxify metals, and how these interactions affect plant health and performance. To answer this question, Elze uses lab-based experiments (small communities in soil microcosms) and field surveys (characterisation of natural soil communities). Elze has a large collection of bacterial soil isolates that vary in their function and colony morphology (when grown on agar). The residents will have access to these as well as to basic lab equipment (agar plates, sterilising equipment etc) if required. Because bacteria are everywhere, natural colonisation of sterilised materials could also be used to visualise the effect of bacteria on other species.