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Jim Butler: Documenting The Flying Pig, The Cambridge pub facing demolition.

Artist Jim Butler has spent years sketching the locals and music acts at his local pub. But a redevelopment plan for the area means the pub's future is almost sealed. Jim penned this article in late 2019 and since then the pub has battled through the pandemic and fought off development plans but now has been told it must close for good.
The owners of The Flying Pig Justine and Matt announced during this summer that they had been issued six months to vacate the business which is also their home. I contacted them on 22nd October and they confirmed they had only four days to go until the unfortunate closure of their much beloved pub which will be a huge loss to the community.

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To anyone living in a British city today, the sight is familiar: an area is being redeveloped and the ordinary, vernacular buildings which give a place its character are being lost. The Flying Pig, an early Victorian pub, now stands isolated on a site that has been earmarked for development for the last decade.
Its neighbour, The Osborne Arms, was demolished in 2012 while the seven-storey Botanic House was built in the same year. At the time of writing, the Flying Pig's future is uncertain. There is an ongoing public consultation about the developer's plans while an online petition to save the Pig has attracted over 13,000 signatures.
Drawing directly from life with my sticks and ink gives me a chance to document the pub as fully as possible while it is still there: to celebrate its visual richness, chat to some regulars, hear some great music and have some sneaky pints along the way.

This is not a story about a dying pub. The blue-painted exterior is fresh and well-maintained, while the blackboards on either side of the door boast an eclectic line-up of live music and real ales. Inside the floorboards are stripped and walls are dark and covered in posters. The décor dates back to the late 80s and then landlord "Mick the Pig" Clelford, who also changed the pub's name from The Crown to The Flying Pig, apparently after himself. The bent propeller over the front door is from a plane he crash-landed.
A couple of years after Justine and Matt Hatfield took over in 1997, Punch Taverns, who owned the building, asked them to revamp the pub. The Hatfields carefully removed the posters, found paint to match the nicotine-stained dark brown walls, repainted through the night and rehung the posters. The posters only get replaced if stolen or worn out. Among the collection providing a backdrop for the lunchtime drinkers are John Holder's iconic Cambridge Folk Festival posters from the early 90s, while Betty Blue looks down from the ceiling.
On weekdays lunch is served from 12-2 and after this Justine and the staff have lunch together, usually trying to tease out the crossword for half an hour. For Justine this is at least as important as the closing time debrief.

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Early afternoon is a good time to observe, and there are usually some regulars in. Once someone orders a second drink I know they're in no great hurry and there'll be time to draw them. I usually ask first, though with my sticks and bottle of ink I'm hardly inconspicuous. Jim had a couple of quiet pints of weissbier standing at the bar - we talk a bit about drawing and how he likes to paint with acrylics. Later I show the drawing to Woody, one of the bar staff: "Ah yeah, the guy who wears the really nice jacket."
Lunch can drag on, particularly on Fridays. Karolina, from Poland, works in nearby Botanic House and is sharing a bottle of wine with some colleagues. Soon the table in front is taken by computer game developers. It appears they're unhappy that the weekly life drawing session at their workplace might be axed.

On one end of the bar stands a statue of a pig in full flying gear. Underneath two friends, both named Eddie are having a few pints. They're interrupted by a guy asking if either of them knew someone named Eddie he was meant to be meeting, but it wasn't either of them.

One afternoon, I am fortunate to catch two of the pub's live music stalwarts, George Breakfast and Fabian Bonner playing an acoustic set in the back room. The back room is known to everyone as the pool room although there hasn't been a pool table there for about a decade. George was originally George Bacon but changed his name to Breakfast on account of his vegetarian wife. The name change cost him 15 guineas at the time.
Fabian worked behind the bar from the age of 18, subsequently managing the pub until he persuaded Justine and Matt to take it over. It's quite something to hear Fabian's legendary Tom Waits covers bounce off the wood panelling of the back room.
Three or four evenings a week there's live music in the Pig. Django's Tigers played at my wedding so it's really nice to hear them again. In front of me, Tyler is with her boyfriend James and his parents. They're Australian. James works in a bar in Camden and regularly gets train up to Cambridge to enjoy the atmosphere and to listen to the music at The Pig.

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Another evening Nick Barraclough is playing as part of the band CBT. He recently published A Disorderly House, a history of The Flying Pig. There's a wonderful extract from an 1857 newspaper: "Supt Jaggard said that he had been informed that the young women who had the management of the house were no better than they ought to be." Given some of the bawdy goings on in the premises over the years, it seems remarkable that Justine, Matt and their two daughters have made the upstairs a family home.
As ever, Justine is watching at the bar ensuring everything goes smoothly. She's been standing in the same spot for so many years that there are little grooves in the floorboards from her cowboy boots.
The Jazz Festival ensures there's even more live music than normal, and the crowd spills over into the pool room. On the wall is a t-shirt for the Flying Pig Stage at Cambridge's annual Strawberry Fair.

It's almost impossible to experience live music in Cambridge without seeing the distinctive figure of Michael Guy. Michael worked as a mathematician in Cambridge University on the theory of polyhedra in higher dimensions, but it's his unruly white hair, beard and tweed jacket that interest me. I've had a couple of pints standing at the bar so the drawing itself is becoming unruly in sympathy.

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Jim Butler

Award-winning illustrator and printmaker Jim Butler was born in Dublin and currently lives in Cambridge, where he leads the MA in illustration and book arts at Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University. More of his work can be found on his website and on Instagram