The Reverend Richard Coles is a former pop star as one half of 1980s band The Communards, turned Church of England vicar, broadcaster and best-selling author. Until retirement in 2022, he was a parish priest in the quintessentially English village of Finedon, Northamptonshire, where two of his ancestors were Vicars in the seventeenth century.
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 Richard the unique position of being the world’s only vicar to have had a number-one hit record.
Since 2011, he has been a co-presenter of BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live and is 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 Coles was the inspiration for the main character in the BBC hit comedy Rev, a programme for which he also served as consultant.
In 2017, he 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.
In 2022, he presented Good Grief? a Channel 4 documentary exploring the subject of how to live positively with grief.
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 homosexual adult and accepting that a life in Kettering was never going to bear rich pickings, he moved to London to work as a session musician in theatre where he befriended Glaswegian runaway Jimmy Somervile. In 1983, he joined Jimmy in the pop group Bronski Beat as a sax player. The following year Jimmy and Richard left to form their own band, 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 the Martyr Church in London’s Holborn, Richard 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.
From 2011-18, Richard was on the board of Wellingborough Homes, a social enterprise that provides housing and community support for the Borough of Wellingborough. In 2012, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Northampton and is a Fellow in the Royal Society of Arts.
In 2017, he was elected a Fellow of King’s College London and Chancellor of the University of Northampton. In 2019, he was appointed Honorary Chaplain to the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers.
As a prolific author, Reverend Richard Coles has written six books including three memoirs; the best selling Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went From Pop to Pulpits (2014), Bringing in The Sheaves: Wheat and Chaff from My Years as a Priest (2016) and Sunday Times best-sellers The Madness of Grief (2021) and Murder Before Evensong (2022).
His work as a broadcaster, priest and formative years in the music industry make Richard a delightfully entertaining, articulate and very funny after dinner speaker; recalling many extraordinary and humorous anecdotes of his journey from pop star to priest.
He is also regularly in demand to host corporate and industry award dinners and delivers keynote speeches on topics such as trust, ethics, mental health, corporate social responsibility, diversity & inclusion and LGBT+.