By Lyn Funnell 

Yasmine Smart

Yasmine Smart

Every Christmas, after dinner, we’d all settle down to watch the Queen’s speech, followed by Billy Smart’s Circus, which was pre-recorded.

I loved it, and so I couldn’t wait to meet Yasmine Smart, Billy Smart’s Granddaughter, recently.

She greeted me outside her caravan, and so did her giant poodle, Rolex.

He tried to sit on my knee, but he’s so tall that he just stood astride me!

Yasmine has always loved the circus life. She also loved her Grandad Billy.

He was a natural showman, easily recognisable with his suit, Stetson and cigar. People noticed him when he walked into a room.

There were 10 children, 4 boys and 6 girls. David was Yasmine’s father. And there are about 30 cousins.

They all used to queue up for their 6D pocket money from their Grandad.

From the age of 5, Yasmine used to ride on an elephant.

The procession walked through the town from the station to the new site. And when they were at the seaside, the elephants loved to go in the sea!

Horses are Yasmine’s speciality. She started in the ring when she was just 10, with a group of 12 black Shetland ponies. She desperately wanted her own horse, despite the fact that there were 60 of them in the circus.

On her 12th birthday, she looked out of the window, and there was a horse, all decorated, wearing a saddle!

At first, Billy pretended that he didn’t know anything about it, but then he admitted that it was his present to Yasmine.

For 22 years, Yasmine had 10 horses – the same horses, who all lived for 28-30 years.

They’re known as Liberty Horses. They loved performing, and if Yasmine walked away, they would carry on with their routine!

Rumours of cruelty in circuses developed. Yasmine said that one of the reasons for it was because circus trainers were all cagey (excuse the pun) about their training methods, which were closely-guarded secrets.

It took a lot of persuasion to get an old horse trainer to teach Yasmine everything he knew.

Animals love to show off. They won’t work well if they’re cruelly treated. They react better to respect.

I know for a fact that elephants flatly refuse to work if they don’t want to. See my Livingstone Elephants article.

The animals were all treated as equals; in fact, Billy Smart’s rules were that the animals had to eat and drink before the humans.

When she was very young, the chimps used to go to birthday parties and other occasions, and Yasmine genuinely believed that they were more of her vast number of cousins!

Schooling was very important to Yasmine’s parents. But the circus children picked up a lot from their way of life. They could deal with money and read at a very young age, and of course they were surrounded all the time by people speaking a large number of different languages.

Now, after a lifetime of working with horses, both in the UK and abroad, Yasmine’s back where she belongs, in Billy Smart’s Circus, as the Ringmistress, which she first did when she was 14.

Monday is the day when the circus is constructed, and usually inspected by the Council, and of course, ‘Elf & Safety. There are two final performances on the Sunday, then the circus is rapidly and expertly pulled down and moved to the next site.

When it’s gone, there’s usually no trace that it was ever there.

A team of experts travels ahead of the circus to mark out the ground.

As a lot of the circus performers arrive in darkness, one of the advance team will greet them with lights, and show the caravans where to park.

The traditional circus may have altered to keep up with modern tastes, and the expressions have altered; ‘Wow, that was awesome!’ But the old magic is still there. It’s written all over the children’s faces – and not just the children!

PS While we were talking, Yasmine had to put on her makeup and Ringmistress outfit, ready for the first show.

I watched her, fascinated, thinking that I was going to learn some professional secrets.

No, there was no huge mirror with big lightbulbs round the outside, or large pots of expensive professional makeup laid out.

She got out a small makeup mirror and stood it on the table in front of her.

Then she produced a small bottle of No 7 cream base from her makeup bag, and rubbed it over her face with her fingers.

This was followed by a neutral coloured eyeshadow, also rubbed on with her fingers.

Then some eyeliner, mascara, and blusher.

What, no secrets? I thought, a bit disappointed.

But then, to my surprise, Yasmine looked up and I nearly burst out laughing!

We’d been discussing how clowns have had to change, and for a few seconds, I thought she was demonstrating the old clowns’ makeup. She’d drawn a thick layer of lip-liner outside her lips. But then she filled it in, covering her lips with a bright red lipstick.

It was stunning! A perfect Cupid’s Bow, like in the adverts. She looked beautiful.

Go on, be bold and try it, girls. It really works!

For bookings, or to find out where the circus is going to be, contact the

Box Office: 0113 260 2444


Box Office: 0113 260 2444