Welsh town appoints first jester in 700 years
AFP/HO/AFP - Erwood followed his tasks by balancing a blazing barbecue on a wooden pole down by the quayside in Conway, a stunt dubbed "The Burning Brushes of Beelzebub"

A small town in north Wales has appointed its first resident jester for over 700 years, naming him in an elaborate medieval ceremony.

Russel Erwood was officially dubbed Erwyd le Fol (French for 'fool') during an event in the main square in Conwy on Sunday which included falconry, knights and a parade.

The 34-year-old had to successfully complete three challenges to get the job: juggling daggers blindfolded, balancing a sword on his chin and making a gold coin disappear during a conjuring trick.

Erwood followed his tasks by balancing a blazing barbecue on a wooden pole down by the town's quayside, a stunt known as "The Burning Brushes of Beelzebub".

Jesters were entertainers and travelling performers who were employed by noblemen to amuse him and his guests as well as local townsfolk with magic tricks, juggling, music and storytelling.

The market town's previous jester -- Tom le Fol -- was appointed by King Edward I of England who was besieged by the Welsh within the town walls over the winter of 1294-1295.

"It's a huge honour to take up the role of town jester -- there aren't that many around," Erwood, a professional magician and circus performer, told AFP.

Erwood undertook his trials under the watchful eye of an executioner equipped with a large medieval axe to administer justice in case he failed any of his tasks.

"It was quite intimidating -- he wasn't a small chap," Erwood told AFP.

Erwood will sport a hood with donkey ears as part of his traditional 13th-century jester's outfit when he attends official functions.

He will perform tricks around the town while putting on two shows a day three days a week which runs until August 29.

Toby Tunstall, chairman of the Conwy chamber of trade that is employing Erwood, was delighted with the appointment.

"Jesters were always more than just entertainers, they were a recognised figure within the community and as such the appointment of a town jester was never taken lightly," said Tunstall.

"Erwyd embraces the town's past and is extremely passionate about its future. He's everything a town jester should be."