DMLab North show off incredible new projects at MakeFest17

Rachael Moat shares the experiences of the DMLab North team when they took part in a fun and action packed weekend exhibiting at MakeFest, held at the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, on 19th and 20th August.

Hundreds of innovators and makers from across the North West set up in the venue to showcase their latest inventions and projects, inspiring visitors to get involved with the world of making.

Hacking and prototyping

DMLab North is a community of disabled musicians and makers who develop new ways to open up access to music for all. It is part of our national DMLab Research and Development programme.

Four teams took part in the recent DMLab North West challenge.

Each group was given just four weeks and £700 to create a new prototype for a new musical instrument, or concept tailored to meet the needs of a specific musician.

To find out more check out the video here.

Showcasing the ingenuity of the North West

Three of these projects were showcased at MakeFest17, including the unforgettable Steve Varden Experience. (No explanation would do this justice – you’ve got to see it to believe it! Click through to watch our Facebook video here).

Steve even found time to pop into Eagle Labs for some last minute 3D printed wheelchair modifications, and a fancy new sign, developed by James Medd.

Musician Steve Varden smiles with his new clear plastic etched sign

Steve gave ten performances over the two days, captivating audience members of all ages.

Hannah Shelmerdine and Chris Ball were also proudly displaying their AirHarp, also developed for the DMLab NW Challenge.

The AirHarp has enabled Hannah to make music for the first time, and was designed to maximise the expressive control Hannah is able to achieve.

The AirHarp sits perfectly on Hannah’s wheelchair and is controlled by the sweeping hand motion Hannah finds most comfortable.

The Nashesizer, a bespoke MIDI controller developed for Disabled sound artist Gemma Nash, was aptly demonstrated by team member Craig Howlett.

The rest of the team include James Medd, Lewis Sykes and Mike Cook.  Gemma has since secured more funding from Sound and Music (Congratulations, Gemma!) so it’s exciting to see how this project develops!

You can stay updated on the project here:

Other inspiring projects at MakeFest

Billy Payne returned with his ever-popular Touch Fiddle, the winner of the inaugural DMLab Challenge in September 2016.

Mike Cook, our resident Arduino and Raspberry Pi Guru (and author of this rather handy guide) brought along several of his projects, including the ArduinoCaster, an LED Harp and the Drum Like Me.

Mike Cook demonstrates his ArduinoCaster accessible guitar

Mike was on hand throughout the event to give inquisitive visitors further insight into the inner workings of his projects.

I also brought along a selection of VibroTubs, ranging from the original Tesco Tupperware version, to the latest 3D printed model, which were particularly popular with the younger attendees.

These are touch-sensitive tubs that play music, vibrate and light up, originally developed for the young people I work with at Seashell Trust.

Visitors enjoyed being able to feel the vibrations on their face or hug them to their chest. One younger member returned to explore the tubs, twice – holding one to each ear with glee!

Over the course of the weekend, our stand attracted over 1000 visitors. It was a fantastic opportunity to share the work of Drake Music and DMLab with a more general audience.

If you’d like to join our community, we meet up on the second Monday of the month at Eagle Labs Salford, The Landing, MediaCityUK. Everyone is welcome.

Contact me for more details at

Photos courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry

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