The Reverend Richard Coles is probably best-known for his time with Jimmy Sommerville and The Communards during the 80’s when they had three UK Top 10 hits including Never Can Say Goodbye and the biggest-selling single of 1986, Don’t Leave Me This Way. He is co-presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live and is regularly seen as a guest panellist on shows such as Have I Got News For You and QI. Richard was the inspiration for the main character in the BBC hit comedy Rev, a programme for which he also served as consultant. In the summer of 2016 he indulged his passion for fine cuisine by taking part in Celebrity Masterchef. Richard is also appearing on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing with his Australian dance partner Dianne Buswell.
Born in March 1962, the young Richard Coles grew up in Northamptonshire and attended Wellingborough public school where he was a chorister and, to his horror, realised he was gay. In his late teens – partly due to being homosexual in an extremely hostile time during the Seventies, Richard took a drug overdose and ended up in a psychiatric hospital.
Richard moved to London to work as a session musician in theatre. In 1983, Richard joined pop group Bronski Beat where he met Jimmy Somerville. The Following year he and Jimmy left to set up The Communards where success came fast and they had the UK’s biggest-selling single of 1986., He split from Jimmy in 1988 and started writing for the Times Literary Supplement and Catholic Herald.
In 1990, after attending a mass at St Alban’s, Richard Coles was suddenly inspired with a new found faith. Between 1990-1994 he studied for a theology degree at King’s College, London. After a 10-year period as a Roman Catholic, he returned to Anglicanism in 2001 and in 2005 was ordained into the Anglican priesthood. He then spent time as a curate at St Botolph’s Church in Boston, Lincolnshire and then at St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge.
Richard now lives with his civil partner David, also a priest, in their vicarage, which is gradually being destroyed by their seven dachshunds and a cat. He was awarded an MA by research from the University of Leeds in 2005 for work on the Greek text of the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Richard’s popular after dinner speech, From Pop Star To Parson, he tells a story that is as real as it is unlikely. He connects the euphoria and mayhem of being ‘Top of The Pops’ in the 80s — which resonates with audiences of that era — to his present circumstances as Church of England priest, radio broadcaster and television show panellist — which resonates with all sorts of people — and enables him to reach a wide audience, answering amongst many burning questions, “How do you go from pop star to priest? And why?”