In recent months you may have noticed one of the most extraordinary instruments ever developed, the Kellycaster, gaining serious traction across social media.
Played brilliantly by disabled musician, actor and active campaigner for disability rights John Kelly (aka Rockinpaddy) the #Kellycaster took 2 years to develop by a dedicated team of coders and ethical hackers who responded to John's visionary design for a bespoke instrument that circumnavigated the access barriers he had faced as an aspiring guitarist.
Born out of Drake Music's 'skunks works' DM Lab and led by the music technologist & sound artist Gawain Hewitt, the team went through many prototypes until a sweet balance of sound, playability and reliability was achieved. Full details of its technological merits and analysis of the guitar's software and bespoke hardware can be found in an in-depth article written by Ashley Elsdon on the influential cdm creative technology platform.
Designed and constructed from the ground up, the Kellycaster is now being played by John in numerous live music environments and whilst tweaks and smaller improvements are being tasked, the initial development period has paid off handsomely.
On a personal note, I was privileged to be document the very first prototype back in June 2015 at the Web Want Want showcase at the Southbank Centre in London (you can read my Journal entry from that experience called Algorithmic Complexities Meet Creative Arts) so it was a pleasure to follow the design's progress and then be commissioned to stage a formal portrait of John and the core team comprising of John, Gawain and Charles Matthews.
The portrait was shot on location inside the main performance space of London's Graeae, a radical theatre that challenges the preconceptions of disability by boldly placing D/deaf and disabled actors centre stage.
All hail the Kellycaster!