Speaker / Host
The Reverend Richard Coles
The Reverend Richard Coles as recently retired has Church of England priest in the quintessentially English village of Finedon, Northamptonshire. The former instrumentalist half of pop band the Communards, together with Jimmy Somerville, Richard is a fine speaker and event host. Richard has been a co-presenter of BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live since 2011 and is also a regular contributor to ‘Pause for Thought’ on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show.
About The Reverend Richard Coles
The Reverend Richard Coles has worked as a broadcaster, priest and spent his formative years in the music industry. This experience makes 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 LGBTQ+.
The Reverend Richard Coles is often described as Britain’s most famous vicar and he was the inspiration for the main character in the BBC hit comedy Rev, a programme for which he also served as consultant.
He 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.
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 of being the world’s only vicar to have had a No.1 hit record.
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.
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. Richard is now based in same village where two of his ancestors were Vicars in the seventeenth century.
Since 2011, Richard has been 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 an author, Reverend Richard Coles has written five 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 bestseller The Madness of Grief (2021), all published by Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Richard is a frequent guest panellist on shows such as Have I Got News For You, Would I Lie To You? and QI.
There aren’t many Church of England priests that can claim to having had a No.1 hit single… in fact, to-date, the Reverend Richard Coles is the one and only, as part of highly successful pop due The Communards. In his highly popular after dinner speech, From Pop Star To Pulpit, Richard 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, television presenter and author — 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?”
Reverend Richard Coles is highly sought-after to speak at conferences and seminars on a number of themes that relate to business and commerce, frequently addressing corporate events on issues around LGBT, diversity and inclusion and education.
"The Reverend Richard Coles, as you would expect, produced an excellent start to our morning session at conference and it quickly became apparent how popular his BBC radio programme is amongst our delegates. His friendly, matter of fact approach was appreciated by everyone. It was a pleasure to host him and I would appreciate your conveying to him my best wishes."
"May I simply say an enormous thank you for taking the time to come and speak to us at our conference dinner in the Celtic Manor Resort. We certainly appreciated your most amusing speech, which undoubtedly contributed to an outstanding dinner for our members and guests. Your after-dinner speech undoubtedly helped contribute to this."
Independent Schools' Bursars Association
"We were delighted with the Reverend Richard Coles' presentation, it was amusing, well delivered and appropriate for the day. We also appreciated the efforts he made to network with our guests before his presentation."
AXA Corporate Solutions Assurance
"On behalf of the M&G Pride Committee, I would like to express our thanks and appreciation to Reverend Richard Coles for a fantastic anniversary event. We really enjoyed the evening, Richard’s talk, and the really great conversation with everyone."
"I have had lots of positive feedback about the Reverend Richard Coles from our guests. They commented on how usually speakers have a set 5 minutes about their background, another 10 on their current work and then may be 5 minutes with a tenuous link to the cause of the night, but with Richard he had clearly put much thought into what he was going to say and he threaded in the link between medicine and religion extremely well. Some doctors said it reaffirmed for them why they decided to study medicine. Richard was very easy going and approachable and our guests enjoyed meeting him very much. As you know this is a very high profile event and we think Richard Coles is one of, if not the best, speaker we have had."
British Medical Association
"The Rev Richard Coles was brilliant, a lovely man and his speech was interesting and entertaining, witty and humorous. He was also really good afterwards talking to and having pictures with many of the audience."
Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association
"We wanted to say a massive thank you for all your assistance with organising Reverend Richard Coles for our Social Impact Spotlight Event. We would like to pass on and say a massive thank you for his exceptional keynote speech at the event. The audience feedback has been fantastic and we look forward to continuing on and highlighting this important discussion."
"On behalf of the M&G Pride Committee, I would like to express our thanks and appreciation both to Reverend Richard Coles and you for a fantastic anniversary event. We really enjoyed the evening, Richard’s talk, and the really great conversation with everyone."
"The BSIA usually invites a politician, journalist or someone from the security industry to deliver the keynote speech at the industry's leading awards ceremony however this year we decided to go left-of-field and choose the only Church of England priest with a number one hit record and wow did we make the right choice! Reverend Richard Coles blew everybody's socks off with his fabulous anecdotes from his life. From forming The Communards to becoming ordained, he had the whole audience in stitches as he recalled his time on the 80's pop scene, his journey into church life and his time on the dance floor of Strictly Come Dancing. Richard proved a real hit with the guests and I would recommend him in a heartbeat. His fabulous charm, wit and personality won everybody over."
British Security Industry Association
"Thank you as always for your support in making the BMA Foundation awards night a success. I have had lots of positive feedback about Reverend Richard Coles from our guests. They commented on how usually speakers have a set 5 minutes about their background, another 10 on their current work and then may be 5 minutes with a tenuous link to the cause of the night, but with Richard he had clearly put much thought into what he was going to say and he threaded in the link between medicine and religion extremely well. Some doctors said it reaffirmed for them why they decided to study medicine. Richard was very easy going and approachable and our guests enjoyed meeting him very much. As you know this is a very high profile event and we think Richard Coles is one of, if not the best, speaker we have had."
Head of Corporate Development, British Medical Association
"It was an absolute pleasure working with Richard – he managed to strike just the right note with our audience and if the number of selfie requests was anything to go by, he was our most popular host to date!"
Museums and Heritage Awards 2018