Circus comes to town

PUBLISHED: 15:57 25 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:57 25 April 2013

Handballancer Desiree Chavez

Handballancer Desiree Chavez

Billy Smart's [promo free]

Billy Smart’s Circus is coming to east London today—the Big Top is pitching at Wanstead Flats for six days.

It is on its first full national tour in more than 30 years with a line-up of performers from some of the most acclaimed circus families in Europe and beyond.

Desiree Chavez, a 19-year old from Portugal, fires a bow-and-arrow with her feet, while bent upside down as she balances precariously on her hands on a stand.

Daredevil Alex the Fireman, one-time bareback horse-rider, scales and plummets from a burning ladder, Laurel and Hardy style—only it’s for real.

The Flying Aces trapeze artists from Australia have to hurl themselves 40ft through the air, high above the circus ring, to the hands of the catcher.

Tumblers, acrobats and clowns complete the line-up, with some members of the audience invited into the ring to help the funny men.

The circus performed to 21 million viewers on prime time TV in its hay day, its crowning glory being the Queen’s 1977 Silver Jubilee.

Billy Smart, a larger-than-life personality dubbed ‘the Gaffer’, bought the original circus in 1946, along with animals that used to perform to audiences.

Nowadays, the animals have gone—but the modern Big Top is heated and seats are designed for comfort.

Performances are 4.45pm and 7.30pm, with an extra 2pm Saturday matinee, while Sunday performances are 12 noon and 3pm and Bank Holiday Monday 12 noon, 3pm and 5.30pm. Online discount tickets are £9-£21 (children two to 12 £7-£15) at


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