IT’S NOT too far from the truth to say that Roger Pugh’s job is a laugh a minute. The 67-year-old from Bromyard is one of the few professional jesters in the country.

In fact he holds the title of being the official Jester to the City of Leicester and likes to think of himself as being the official Jester to the City of Leicester and to the bones of Richard III. Historically jesters were members of the household to a nobleman – often the king - to entertain him and his guests.

Roger has not always been a jester – he fell into it because he needed to earn some money while travelling in Europe and he decided he could probably get by as a street entertainer.

He explained that he worked as a cordon bleu chef but his restaurant was struggling to survive. “I wanted to go off travelling but I did not have any money. I could play the guitar – not very well – and I could sing but not brilliantly so I thought I could busk.

“I had been in the merchant navy for a couple of years and I had lived in Copenhagen for a bit and it had a lot of street entertainers. I decided the only way I could afford to travel was by busking.”

He said he had seen street entertainers in Copenhagen in distinctive costumes and Roger decided he needed a costume and a gimmick to attract attention. “I thought if I had bells on my feet I could get a bit of percussion going and jesters often used bells.

“I got a costume cobbled together and painted half green and half yellow and put bells on the shoes. I played the guitar and sang mostly Bob Dylan and Irish folk songs and danced around. “

He didn’t earn very much on his first day and discovered he had to learn pretty quickly. “It was the best apprenticeship I had ever had. My playing and singing is not bad now. I had to learn as I went along. If you are out singing and playing every day it improves.”

Roger picked up some useful tips too. “If you are trying to get some amplification you bounce it off the window across the street and it comes back.”

He travelled around Europe busking in his costume and was away for about six months. On returning to Britain, he decided to convert a mini bus into a motorhome and went off busking all around Britain.

He really enjoyed this life and getting a rapport with people in the street. Eventually people started inviting him to perform at events at hotels, children’s parties and medieval banquets.

These days Roger plays a mandola, tells jokes and tries to make people laugh. He also does living history events and performs at various festivals and charter fairs, teaches medieval games and runs jester schools, going all over the country.

He has performed at Hampton Court, Powys Castle, Warwick Castle and Herstmonceux, while on one occasion he jetted of to Sri Lanka for an event organised by the British Council.

Roger lived in Leicester for about 20 years before moving to Bromyard four years ago and it was while there he was installed by the National Guild of Jesters as the official Jester to the City of Leicester. There are about 30 professional jesters in the country, said Roger.

Over the years he has become quite an expert on jesters and their historic roles. “The jesters were slaves really and they were used as court spies, listening in to conversations for their master. People were quite fearful of jesters.

“They had total immunity. They could ridicule the king. The monarchy was not allowed to show emotions and they could pour all their troubles out to the jester.”

These days the job of a jester is purely to spread a bit of merriment. “It just amazes me. Laughing and smiling is quite a nice thing to do. Doing something historical which is totally out of fashion and keeping it going is quite a nice thing to do. It is a shame the modern monarchs do not have jesters.

“I know people who offered their services to the Queen and Prince Charles but it did not work.”

To be a good jester you have to be able to laugh at yourself and laugh at other people in a nice way, he added. Roger pointed out that the late comedian Tommy Cooper was a magnificent jester.

“You can tell a joke to one set of people and they will be on the floor laughing and tell the same joke to another set of people and they do not think it is funny. You try to adapt and use the material you think will work with people.”

He said: “I have had lots of adventures which would not have happened if I had not taken this path. Life is an adventure and you never know where it is going to take you. I have been to lots of castles and stately homes I would never have got involved with otherwise. You get to see places you did not know existed. A lot of castles are still privately owned.”

He has been through about 20 costumes in his career. “If I run into a dress maker, I ask if they can make me a costume.”

His latest outfit was made by his friend Gill Evans from Knightwick, who made it in exchange for a spot of gardening when she was unable to do it herself due to the effects of her chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. Roger said it is definitely the best one he has had.

Anyone who would like to know more about Sylvesta The Jester can visit his website at email or telephone 01885 483425 or 0777 969 4615.

Roger is performing at events in Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire in the coming weeks.