Richard Coles is an English musician, journalist and Church of England priest. The Reverend Richard Coles is the presenter of Saturday Live on BBC Radio 4. He read Theology at King’s College London, and after ordination worked as a curate in Lincolnshire, then at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge, in London. He was the multi-instrumentalist who partnered Jimmy Somerville in the 1980s band the Communards, which achieved three Top Ten hits, including the Number 1 record and best-selling single of 1986, a club/dance version of “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. He is the author of Fathomless Riches and Lives of the Improbable Saints. He lives in his parish of Finedon, Northamptonshire.
The hardback of Richard’s memoir Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went From Pop to Pulpit was published in October 2014 and the paperback was published in September 2015. His second memoir Bringing in the Sheaves was published in October 2016.
In 2017 Richard presented The Big Painting Challenge (BBC One), and was also a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing (BBC One).
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, where life seemed to offer only disgrace – Richard took a drug overdose and ended up in a psychiatric hospital.
He subsequently moved to London to work as a session musician in theatre. In 1983, Richard 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 ill 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. They split in 1988; Jimmy embarking on a solo career, whilst Richard 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, before returning to Northamptonshire where he began to seriously consider taking holy orders. After a 10-year period as a Roman Catholic, Richard returned to Anglicanism in 2001 and then in 2005 was ordained into the Anglican priesthood. Following ordination he 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. Reverend Richard Coles is co-presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live and is regularly seen as a guest panelist on shows such as BBC One’s Have I Got News For 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 the summer of 2016 he indulged a passion for fine cuisine by taking part in the BBC’s prime-time programme Celebrity Masterchef.
Richard Coles’ work in the media and unique position as the only Vicar to have had a number one hit record, makes him a popular speaker on the after dinner circuit, regaling many extraordinary and humorous tales of his journey from popstar to priest. With a particular interest in housing communities, he also serves as a board member of Wellingborough Homes, providing social and affordable housing in the borough where he lives, and is also involved with Northampton University.
LEGENDS OF THE IMPROBABLE SAINTS – buy it HERE.
Following the mass conversions sweeping Britain after the publication of Lives of the Improbable Saints, Dr Harrison and I thought it wise and expedient to retell yet more stories of the great ‘cloud of witnesses’ preserved in Christian tradition these two thousand years.’ Richard Coles Martyrs and miracle-workers, monks, mystics and murderers; each of these legendary saints – respectfully introduced by Richard Coles and affectionately illustrated by Ted Harrison – can, however improbable, prompt us to reflect on faith and devotion today. From St Edith of Wilton, who beat up the Devil, to St Eutychius of Phrygia, who fell asleep and dropped from a window ledge while listening to a sermon of the Apostle Paul, only to be raised from the dead, Revd Coles explores the Church’s most astonishing stories.
PUBLISHER: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd
PUBLICATION DATE: 28th August 2013
BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES – Buy here
After a life of sex and drugs and the Communards – brilliantly recounted in the highly acclaimed first volume of his memoirs FATHOMLESS RICHES – the Reverend Richard Coles went on to devote his life to God and Christianity. He is also a much-loved broadcaster, presenting SATURDAY LIVE on Radio 4 and giving us regular reason to PAUSE FOR THOUGHT on Radio 2.
What is life like for the parson in Britain today? For centuries the Church calendar – and the Church minister – gave character and personality to British life. Today, however, as the shape of the year has become less distinct and faith no longer as privileged or persuasive, that figure has become far more marginal.
In BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES, Reverend Coles answers this question. From his ordination during the season of Petertide, through Advent and Christmas to Lent and Easter, he gives us a unique insight into his daily experience in the ministry, with all the joy, drama, difficulty and humour which life – and indeed death – serves up in varying measures.
Written with extraordinary charm and erudition, BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES features a multitude of characters and events from parish life against a backdrop of the Christian calendar.
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Publication Date: 6th October 2016
FATHOMLESS RICHES: OR HOW I WENT FROM POP TO PULPIT — Buy it here
The memoir of popular BBC Radio 4 SATURDAY LIVE presenter, the Reverend Richard Coles.
The Reverend Richard Coles is a parish priest in Northamptonshire and a regular host of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live. He is also the only vicar in Britain to have had a number 1 hit single: the Communards’ ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ topped the charts for four weeks and was the biggest-selling single of its year. Fathomless Riches is his remarkable memoir in which he divulges with searing honesty and intimacy his pilgrimage from a rock-and-roll life of sex and drugs to a life devoted to God and Christianity.
Music is where it began. Richard Coles was head chorister at school, and later discovered a love of saxophone together with the magic of Jimmy Somerville’s voice. Against a backdrop of intense sexual and political awakening, the Communards were formed, and Richard Coles’s life as a rock star began.
Fathomless Riches – a phrase characteristic of St Paul and his followers – is a deeply personal and illuminating account of a transformation from hedonistic self-abandonment to ‘the moment that changed everything’. Funny, warm, witty and wise, it is a memoir which has the power to shock as well as to console. It will be hailed as one of the most unusual and readable life stories of recent times.
PUBLICATION DATE: 16 October 2014