The Reverend Richard Coles is a Church of England priest in the quintessentially English village of Finedon, Northamptonshire, where two of his ancestors were Vicars in the seventeenth century. However, in complete contrast, more than a quarter of a century ago Richard was the instrumentalist half of pop band The Communards, together with Jimmy Somerville.
During the 1980s The Communards had three UK Top 10 hits, including Never Can Say Goodbye and the biggest-selling single of 1986, Don’t Leave Me This Way. This therefore affords him the unique position as being the world’s only vicar to have had a No.1 hit record.
Richard Coles is co-presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live and also a regular contributor to ‘Pause for Thought’ on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show. He is a frequent guest panellist on shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You? and QI.
Often described as Britain’s most famous vicar, Richard was the inspiration for the main character in the BBC hit comedy Rev, a programme for which he also served as consultant.
In 2017, Richard was a contestant on the BBC’s BAFTA winning prime-time show Strictly Come Dancing, and the year previous he was a semi-finalist on Celebrity Masterchef. He has a keen interest in classical music, art and ceramics, and co-hosted the BBC’s Big Painting Challenge alongside Mariella Frostrup in 2017 and 2018.
Richard Coles grew up in Northamptonshire and attended a minor public school where he was a chorister and, to his horror, realised he was gay. As a young adult he subsequently moved to London to work as a session musician in theatre. In 1983 he joined pop group Bronski Beat as a sax player where he met Jimmy Somerville. The following year, Jimmy and Richard left to form The Communards.
Success came fast and they had the UK’s biggest-selling single of 1986, but Richard was not at ease with the sudden fame. He was the gawky, bespectacled, musically trained geek who physically towered over the extrovert Somerville, but was otherwise lost in his friend’s shadow. Friction grew, and it was against this backdrop of drug-fuelled arguments that Richard invented a deception which ultimately drove him away from his career in pop music and towards a more fulfilling vocation to God.
In 1990, after attending a mass at St Alban’s, Richard Coles was suddenly inspired with a new found faith. He took a theology degree at King’s College, London, before returning to Northamptonshire where he began to seriously consider taking holy orders. After ten years as a Roman Catholic he reverted to Anglicanism, and in 2005 Richard was ordained into the Anglican priesthood.
With a particular interest in housing communities, Richard serves as a board member of Wellingborough Homes, providing social and affordable housing in the borough where he lives, and in 2017 became honorary Chancellor of the University of Northampton.
Reverend Richard Coles’ work as a broadcaster, priest and his formative years in the music industry make him a delightfully entertaining, articulate and very funny after dinner speaker; recalling many extraordinary and humorous anecdotes of his journey from pop-star to priest; Richard is also regularly in-demand to host corporate and industry award dinners and delivers keynote speeches on issues such as trust, ethics, corporate social responsibility, diversity & inclusion and LGBT.
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