Whoever had the bright idea that led to Conwy, the walled town not the whole county, appointing its own jester deserves congratulations, commendations and a giant pat on the back.
Additionally, those who were far-sighted enough to agree to it have turned out to be a sheer geniuses in terms of marketing – both for the town and for its tourists. By all that I have heard, those honours seem due to the town’s chamber-of-trade.
For anybody who has been asleep all summer, let me bring you up to date. Entertainer Russel Erwood, in the form of his alter ego Erwyd le Fol, was appointed Conwy’s first ‘Jester in Residence’ for 700 years.
A special adoubement or naming ceremony was held and this led to the story and some amazing pictures appearing in an eye-popping number of media in so many different parts of the world and in a wide variety of languages.
The publicity thus gained for the town is far beyond what could have reasonably been thought possible. In fact, it must have been beyond most people’s wildest dreams. But it shows just what can happen when someone can think outside the box and get a town to appoint its own jester who can, among other things, balance a blazing barbecue on a wooden pole – all on his chin.
So, what’s the story of Erwyd le Fol? He can explain better than I.
“Dressed in the red and yellow of the medieval Kingdom of Gwynedd (or Kingdom of Happiness) I specialise in spreading joy and laughter where ever I go. Juggling, magic, circus stunts, balloon modelling and family friendly comedy combine to create the perfect package for all kinds of events including medieval festivals, country fairs, summer fetes, steam rallies, street shows, schools, weddings and birthday parties.”
Impressive stuff, I think you’ll agree but what about his predecessor of 700 years ago? Well it turns out that this was Tom le Fol who was personal jester to King Edward I. When the king was besieged for three months in Conwy castle during the winter of 1294-95, Tom le Fol was there too, kept busy by entertaining all who lived there.
I have to say that I first met Russell almost two years ago, well before Erwyd le Fol was even an idea let alone a reality.
A year ago, Lisa and I attended a hallowe’en party at Rhos on Sea Golf Club where Russel gave a cabaret performance including illusions, conjuring and even a little escapology all bound together with comedy. Clearly, he is a talented guy.
Mind you, even more impressive is the way in which he has pursued his dream of entertaining people.
Russel/Erwyd told me: “At age 14 I went to circus school. It was there that I trained in trapeze, acro and other circus skills but it was juggling and manipulation that really caught my imagination. It was during this time that I discovered an ability to make people laugh and I also started to learn magic and escapology.
“Since those early days I have had a career that’s seen me escape from barrels full of water; dangled upside down from my feet whilst strapped in a straitjacket; juggle at the Bahrain Grand Prix; perform for large national and international companies; featured in street festivals around the UK and worked as the magic consultant for TV shows.”
You can find out more by visiting Erwyd’s website (that’s one thing Tom le Fol could not have had) at www.conwyjester.co.uk