Smart Family Collection
Billy Smart and family
Ref: NFA 0079
Title: The Smart Family Collection
Scope: This collection includes posters, programmes, letters and cine-film taken by Billy Smart himself on his European travels. It also contains business documents and a large number of photographs documenting both family life and the circus and its performers.
Extent: 12 metres of shelving
Name of creator: Billy Smart and Smart family
Administrative / biographical history: This unique family collection charts their history as fairground showmen to presenting one of the great British circuses from 1947 onwards, and is a fitting tribute to the Gov'nor Mr Billy Smart - the founder of Smart's Circus.
Billy Smart began his career as a fairground showman starting as a worker but then building his fair to become extremely successful. He had a love for horses and moved into the circus business after buying Harry Coady's big top and began his New World Circus in 1946.
It became Britain's largest travelling show complete with over 100 animals, including 15 elephants, and top circus acts from around the world. It also featured colourful productions such as the Arabian Nights, Fairyland Fantasy and the Wild West Show.
Billy Smart and his family became synonymous with circus. There were TV specials at Christmas until 1983, continuing after the circus stopped touring in 1971. The BBC's first-ever colour broadcast was a 'Tribute to Billy Smart'. Royal Performances took place in London, raising thousands of pounds for charity.
In the 1990s, the Smart circus toured again with Billy Smart's Quality Big Top Show and most recently Billy Smart's Circus is presented by Tony Hopkins is frequently on tour across the UK.
Related Collections: Malcolm Airey Collection
Source: Donated by Gary Smart, grandson of the celebrated Billy, and his father, Ronnie Smart.
System of arrangement: Catalogued according to type. Further accruals expected.
Conditions of access: Text
Restrictions: Business items and correspondence is restricted and not available for research.
Copyright: Various According to type.
Finding aids: Finding aid for part of the collection available in the reading room. Click here for finding aid in word document form.