No tables or chairs in the classroom

On the 6th of May 2017, in a bare room with no desks or chairs available, the first ever lesson in KATFM Learning Centre’s new building was delivered to the Film and Production Club by long-time BBC Producer and Director, and KATFM Board of Governor’s member, John Wallage.  It was a good beginning.


Students listened closely as he described the current big budget television series he’s currently working on for National Geographic. KATFM is attempting to connect local young people considering a career in the arts with local professionals who can provide practical advice and normalise the career choices some of our students are struggling with.

The classroom won’t be empty for long. This summer 50 young people will earn a GCSE level Arts Award for their participation in Radio Boot Camp, Guitar Boot Camp, Intro to Photoshop, Filmmaker’s Boot Camp and more. KATFM won a small pot of funding to make this programme happen.  Every class will be taught by a working professional in his or her field in the Creative Sector.

Mr. Ramsay’s Art Class

Mr. Ramsay’s art class takes place at 1:00 – 2:00 each Tuesday afternoon. This summer, he will run an Intro to Photoshop course at Ashford Arts Centre. Sessions are £10 for non-members and £6 for arts centre members.

You can do the course and get a certificate from KATFM or you can choose to earn college credits as we are accredited with Trinity College London and Open Awards. Suitable for all ages over 11. 01233 637 3098

KATFM Learning Resources


Basic – The Khan Academy has published a comprehensive Basic Music course. It’s free and each short video is interesting and builds knowledge and skills on the previous.

This is the list of topics on the site:


Cllr George Koowaree Comes Through

Kent County Cllr  and current Mayor of Ashford George Koowaree recently approved a £1,000 grant to help pay the costs to launch an education centre inside Ashford Arts Centre .


Once the education centre passes all inspections and is fully registered, KATFM plans to hire its current line-up of volunteers, currently running its training centre and after-school clubs, for a brand new daycare centre, extended day-holiday camps and college level qualifications in English, Music and Film.

The company has plans to expand into other parts of Kent which will lead to even more new jobs.

george koowaree

Ashford arts centre is the flagship project of KATFM. It is the first and currently the only dedicated Community Centre for the Creative and Performing Arts in Ashford.


Cllr Koowaree’s grant will help fund the launch of the new KATFM Education Centre located inside the AAC.  Members of the community can learn music, film and languages. There will be a new pre-school provision and specialist college level courses for 16 – 19 year olds interested in a career in the Creative/Performing Arts.

Kent Arts Television Film Music

Rhonda Merrick, Managing Director of KATFM stated  “Small grants are incredibly important to self-funded projects like ours.  Although we pay our own rent and day-to-day costs like any other business, our company is community focused and our main reason for existing is to provide affordable access to quality training and performance opportunities rather than turning a profit, this means there’s very little money left over to invest in building the project or creating jobs and ultimately, long-term stability for the arts centre, events and festivals we currently manage.”

The Kent County Council grant will pay the necessary costs for KATFM to become a registered education centre and to help spread the word in the community.  According to Merrick, the grant is absolutely vital to help the company move forward to the next phase of the project.


What’s New In 2017

KATFM Daycare Centre will be opening inside Ashford Arts Centre in 2017. We are currently going through the process with the local council and Ofsted.  Once licensed, we aim to offer Extended Day Holiday Camps for 3 – 11 year olds as well as Daycare Centre places for 3 & 4 year olds.

DSC01977 children working DSC02112 DSC02105 piano drama

Our centre will teach every child to read, write and play music as well as building confidence and friendships through arts-based activities, performances and exhibits of work.

KATFM is also expanding its Graded Piano Book series in an effort to make quality training as affordable as possible, we’ve condensed what you need to know about Music Theory and Piano into one workbook.

Why Creative Arts Matter

The once vibrant and colourful Creative Collective studio now sits vacant and dark. Betsy Aidinyantz, the projects founder, is one of the most deeply creative people I’ve ever met. She’s passionate about art and its healing properties on mental health. She’s kind and generous to a fault… except for the times when her volcanic temper flares and you find yourself standing a safe distance away, feeling unable to help as you watch the lava destroy everything in its path, leaving only ashes from which she rises again and again… like the Phoenix.


Ashford Youth Theatre sits on Dover Place, in the heart of the new commercial district, abandoned and awaiting demolition. The theatre group that was based there has been displaced with no clear idea on what’s next. Stella Critchley, coordinator of Ashford Youth Theatre recently spoke to the local media about the situation which is affecting other theatre groups which regularly used the building.

ashford youth theatre

Cllr Graham Galpin, a huge proponent for commercial development and a supporter of Ashford Arts Centre, issued a comment in the same article.  He said the commercial quarter must go forward.

ashford arts centre visit

Local councils are facing budget cuts from central government and have to make up the shortfall themselves. When money is tight and there’s a choice between roads and infrastructure, looking after the poor and elderly… or funding the arts… guess who loses out?

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

KATFM CIC runs Ashford Arts Centre and Ashford Fringe Festival.


alex  aff window display

We’ve created a business model at the arts centre that makes it possible for anyone in the community to have access to the Creative and Performing Arts:

  • We provide affordable space to freelance professionals in music and dance to meet students and clients here.
  • We provide an affordable club membership scheme so people from all income levels can have their children taught to read, write and play music as well as dance to it. AAC membership also entitles people to learn to speak English through highly interactive and creative teaching.
  • We provide collaboration spaces and opportunities to professionals in all creative industries. We’re a gathering place and  hub of potential jobs for people in the arts that find themselves tethered to Ashford for family or financial reasons.
  • We will soon provide college level qualifications in Creative Media and Music.

Our business model can be augmented and strengthened with help from our local councils to provide a haven for arts groups like the Creative Collective and Ashford Youth Theatre as well as the many tiny creative entities they support.


This is what I think needs to be done:

  1. Identify sources of GRANT funding, which can be combined, to enable KATFM CIC to buy one of the large, old victorian buildings in the town centre for £400-500k. This can be done with help from Chris Dixon, who has secured far larger grants in the past for different arts groups.
  2. In cooperation with the council, arrange for Discretionary Rate Relief for at least 5 years whilst getting the project on firm financial ground.
  3. Revenue streams: In-house studio rentals, Hourly rentals, arts club memberships and season tickets (themed for Children’s shows, Operas/Musical Theatre, Comedies/Dramatic plays, The GCSE/A-Level Dramas, pantomimes…). We are already doing these things at the arts centre, but the building is too small to accommodate more groups and it’s a rental, we need to own a building to add value to it and energy efficiency measures to reduce costs.
  4. Convert the 1st and 2nd floors to studios/classrooms, some with resident artists, but maintain some studios for hourly or daily rentals so anyone can use the building.
  5. Convert the ground floor to a community theatre, run by and for local theatre groups.  These groups can rent rehearsal space at a price they can fford and run their own programmes, just as Olivia Duggan currently runs the dance studio at Ashford Arts Centre.
  6. Resident theatre groups can also book the theatre for performances at a cheaper rate than that paid by outside groups.  (The fine details can be sorted between the parties to the contract, but something along these lines is workable).
  7. Add someone from the ABC and KCC council and someone from the Arts Council on the board of governors for this project to facilitate possible expansion of this business model in other towns across Kent.

I propose a creative companies incubation centre on a larger scale than the one we’ve got at the AAC, which provides  affordable membership packages to the public, on-going support in marketing and box office sales for a percentage of the takings  to resident and touring artists, affordable studio rentals, classes and qualifications in our respective areas of the Creative and Performing Arts. The CIC can provide the facilities and do the paperwork. The artists can teach, perform and create things in the community.

This is a sensible, business-minded way to preserve the community arts without taking away from other more pressing matters which require funding from local councils.

theory1 ritchie on guitar theory

At the arts centre, we’re reaching previously unreachable families every day. We’re teaching ALL of our members to read and write music compositions. This standardised approach to building communities, friendships and understanding of the arts will put our communities in Kent at a huge advantage over most of the UK in years to come.

Music Matters!
How wonderful is it to have young people too busy rehearsing to hang out on the streets with too much idle time on their hands? Some will be more interested in graphic design/art… others… theatre… others dance. We can provide ALL of that. by working together in our communities.

Liv2Dance Fiesta

All we have to do is cooperate with each other to get the project on its feet. I believe that KATFM CIC has proven itself willing and able to work with all creative disciplines, to help the Creative and Performing Community Arts groups of Ashford thrive and grow.

TOGETHER… We can create a grassroots feeder system for higher education across Kent and send better equipped young people to our colleges and universities.

TOGETHER… We can reach families on the outer fringes of society due to language, cultural and social-economic reasons.

TOGETHER… We can brand, nurture and robustly defend the non-profit arts organisations that might otherwise fail to thrive.

The business model we’ve set up at Ashford Arts Centre, deserves to be given a chance to expand and fulfill its stated aims which are well within the aims of both Ashford Borough and Kent County Councils…

Our Aims​:
1. We aim to attract, engage and retain entire families in the mid to low income bracket through an all-inclusive plan for members of the community to learn, participate and perform in the safety of a Creative Gym for all stages of life.

2. We aim to educate throughArts-based experiential learning through instrumental and vocal music, Intermediate English for adult learners, film and production.

3. We aim to impact entire communities through total family engagement to the point of making the Creative and Performing Arts a normal part of everyday life.

4. We aim to assist, train and equip people from entry-level to professional.

How we plan to do this:

1. Educate​: We will run on going training and participation opportunities for people of all ages and abilities with an interest in the Creative and Performing Arts.

2. Participate​: We will host or sponsor opportunities people to enjoy live theatrical performances, independent film, books, festival appearances and any known or not-yet-known means of engaging with our target audiences.

3. Work Experience: The group aims to use music and film projects to create community-led original works, decrease isolation through continuous involvement in arts-based projects and productions, increase self-confidence through performance training, work experience, apprenticeships and preparation for employment in a range of creative industries.

I firmly believe that anything is possible. We can do this… in fact we MUST do something as arts funding continues to dwindle and the lights go out of one valuable community resources after another.

Jon Lindstrom of the SE Arts Council and Chris Dixon of Ashford Borough Council are already taking action on our behalf, this is my personal declaration of intent.

As always…

I look forward.

Rhonda Merrick @thekatfm

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]


T-CAT is a good idea

Ashford Arts Centre sits next to a lovely paved alleyway called Taylor’s Passage. Recently, a member of staff noticed a brick had been removed and caused a potential trip hazard. taylors passage

The photo was quickly forgotten in the rush of music students coming and going through the day, but later that night after noticing a tweet about the Create Festival, she noticed the T-CAT team had followed the AAC on Twitter and looked them up on the Ashford Borough Council website.  T-Cat stands for Town Centre Action Team.

Upon realising the council had put a personal touch on their town centre complaints department, she sent a tweet about the damage to the walkway and they promptly replied.

Now that’s a fantastic result! Good idea to make getting in touch with the council for things like broken concrete to gum on the ground, only a tweet away… just a tweet away…

This is information found on their website:

Anyone can flag up a problem or task to T-CAT, including sending pictures, using any of the following methods:

  1. Email details of the issue (what and where it is) to
  2. Call the team on 01233 331111
  3. Tweet us @ashfordcouncil using the #tcatashford

T-CAT will cover the town centre and surrounding roads, including Canterbury Road (to Simone Weil Avenue), Mace Lane, around Ashford International station, Romney Marsh Road (to Newtown roundabout) Elwick Road, West Street and New Street and Magazine Road.

The team cannot carry out work on privately owned land or property, but staff will endeavour to contact the relevant owners if action is required. Any problems that are out of their coverage area, or beyond their capacity, will be flagged up to the relevant parties and partner organisations.

Holding an event in the town centre?
Let T-CAT know and we can ensure the area is clean and tidy for you

Things seem to be looking up for Ashford town centre.


Ashford Arts Centre Success In The Making

KATFM is pleased to announce Ashford Arts Centre membership is growing!

junior music club

Music, Film and Language training, performance opportunities in our tiny theatre and festivals…aff window display

Access to recording and rehearsal spaces all serve to strengthen our arts centre revenues in small but important ways.

aac1 music room at aac

Ashford Fringe Festival Starts This Weekend!

Are you ready to fringe? Comedy Night on Saturday the 28th at Ashford Arts Centre. Get yourself down here to check out Jordan Craig, freddie Main, Scarlett Dobson and Stuart Hosmer-Wright will be headlining the night.

Comedy Night Scarlett Dobson

COMEDY NIGHT at Ashford Arts Centre is Free! We want you to come see what it’s like here in our fantabulous arts centre. BYOB and come for the laughs.

Hosted by hilariously funny Jack Greaves .

Local Government Arts Budgets To Be Cut By 50% Over The Next 4 Years

Ashford Arts Centre  in Kent is a success story for community-based arts groups. Over 2 dozen freelance professionals in the Creative and Performing Arts teach and rehearse here.  Nearly 600 people a week come to Ashford Arts Centre for music, dance, film and production training, recording or rehearsals.  The project started with zero public funding, but recently hosted a gathering of local officials to celebrate its first year in business and to give elected officials a chance to see for themselves how two small funding awards from Ashford Borough Council and KCC were invested.

But Ashford may be going against a downward trend for community arts groups.  The Arts Council and The New Local Government Network recently sponsored a speech delivered by Arts Council Chair, Sir Peter Bazalgette,  which revealed local governments will face  a 50% cut in their Arts budgets over the next 4 years.  Sir Peter stated local councils have shielded arts groups from the full brunt of cuts made this year.

In Kent, just two days after Sir Peter’s announcement, the Mayor, Councillors from Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council alongside a host of invited guests and officials toured Ashford Arts Centre to see for themselves how two small grants, recently awarded to the project by Ashford Borough Council and KCC, were invested.

The gathering  listened attentively to a speech by the Founder and Creative Director of the project, Rhonda Merrick. The subject of her presentation was partially in response to the speech made earlier that week by Sir Peter

A movie about the resident artists in the project was presented and is available in this blog post to view.

The centre  is about to celebrate its first year in the building with the 2nd annual Ashford Fringe Festival on the 28th of May to the 5th of June.

Sir Peter stated that small capital investment designed to create self-sustaining revenue streams for arts groups is the way forward. Ashford Arts Centre, a project of KATFM, may be exactly the sort of business model Sir Peter had in mind.  The project can survive on its own, but to grow and meet increasing demands for affordable spaces to teach and train in the arts, it requires intelligent investment from local councils, art funds and corporate sponsors.



We Own and Manage Ashford Arts Centre and Ashford Fringe Festival