Residents have been left “gutted and speechless” after a cherished community centre closed to make way for council offices.
A mix between a café, a yoga studio and a food bank, The Big Drum in Rose Lane, Canterbury, has been providing free meals to anyone in need since March 2021.
But due to the city council’s plan to move into new offices around the high street, the voluntary project must now find somewhere else to operate from.
In a post on Facebook, The Big Drum said it was shocked at the news.
“We are very sorry that this chapter of The Big Drum has come to such an abrupt end," the statement said.
“As we’re sure you can imagine, it was as much of a surprise to us as it is to anyone else.”
But Whitefriars spokesman Mark Stuart, who manages the former RBS building used by The Big Drum rent-free for the past 18 months - says the news should not have caught the charity off-guard.
“I’m surprised by their surprise,” said Mr Stuart.
“We’ve communicated well throughout their occupation.
“The timelines have moved up to allow for the preparatory works for the necessary construction works to take place.”
The Big Drum first made its mark in Canterbury during Covid, when it donated 12,000 meals to the needy.
News of its closure provoked an outpouring of comments on social media, with users thankful for the work the project has provided.
"I'm so, so gutted to hear this," said one user.
"I have no words, other than thank you, and, I hope we see you return to a new establishment as soon as possible."
"This is deeply saddening news. What you have done in Canterbury has been astounding - a light is going out," added another.
Mantra Chaitanya Das, who runs the community centre along with his wife, Hema Much Devi Dasi, says the volunteer-based initiative is an example of what can be achieved when people come together to support the local community.
"It doesn’t feel like a death, it’s a reincarnation..."
“A lot of people have found this place to be a home, a lifeline, a unique thing that hadn’t existed in Canterbury,” said Mantra.
“I don’t think there is any other service in the areas that provides the same support we do and it seems that we’ve struck a chord with a lot of people in a really deep way.
“The general response to the news of us closing has been a feeling of loss, bewilderment, confusion because we’re so unsure of what’s going to happen in the future."
But the former musician is remaining positive and believes the location of The Big Drum matters less than the needs it serves.
"I don’t feel like we are going anywhere,” said Mantra.
“It doesn’t feel like a death, it’s a reincarnation.
“It was never about the building, it’s about the service.
“As long as there is a need we will find a way to provide the service.”
Canterbury City Council has been working with The Big Drum to find a new space.
Spokesman Rob Davies said: "The Big Drum does fantastic work in the community and we hope they will be able to continue doing so.
"We have been supporting them to look for other locations, either elsewhere in Whitefriars or the city centre, and out in the wider community.
"At the moment this has not proved fruitful but we will continue to keep looking for them and advise them should other options become available."