The Kellycaster accessible guitar

We are delighted to announce a partnership to build a revolutionary new type of bespoke accessible guitar, nicknamed the ‘Kellycaster’.

The 'kellycaster' - a work in progress being developed by Charles Matthews and guitarist/musician John Kelly
The ‘kellycaster’ – the prototype developed by Charles Matthews and guitarist/musician John Kelly

Our head of R&D Gawain launched the new partnership at the Inclusive Creativity symposium hosted by Share Music Sweden at the Gothenburg Opera House on 28th April 2016.

John Kelly, Musician, performer and Disability Rights campaigner, conceived and created the idea for a new type of guitar, bespoke to meet his performance & access needs as a working Disabled Artist.

At our DMLab hackathon at the Southbank Centre last year he saw that dream become a reality as he worked with coder Charles Matthews to create a prototype.


The Kellycaster prototype features a standard guitar body with an adapted neck enabling John, and other musicians, to play chords using real guitar strings and a tailor-made switch interface.

By developing a system to play the chord patterns whilst strumming or plucking as you would on the strings, John can play the redesigned instrument with full creative expression and dynamic as with any regular guitar.

The new project is about taking the prototype further and building a robust instrument of concert-grade quality.

Gawain has assembled a multi-disciplinary team to work on the build, including John Kelly, Charles Matthews, Ali Barker, Jon Dickinson and Gawain himself.


The Kellycaster project is part of the Inclusive Creativity venture supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a partnership between Ulster University, Walled City Music and Drake Music.

The new instrument will enable John to expand his professional musical practice. He commented:

“Playing the prototype Kellycaster last year was the realisation that I could take my guitar playing to a whole new level

It was a real ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ moment. I’m very excited about the development of the prototype, it will really create a dynamic new journey with my live performance.”

Matthew Greenall, Executive Director of partners Walled City Music added:

“We are delighted as part of the Inclusive Creativity programme to be supporting this important and innovative development. 

Improving access to music making for disabled musicians and levelling the playing field for their participation is at the core of Inclusive Creativity, and the design of new instruments, such as the Kellycaster, is critical in pushing the boundaries of the possible.“

Inclusive Creativity is a concept devised by Professor Frank Lyons at Ulster University in collaboration with key partners such as Share Music Sweden, Drake Music Project and Stravaganza, which aims to level the playing field in participation, performance and composition for disabled musicians by developing new technologies and methodologies for their use.


Leave a Reply