Vicars. They’re dull, right? They dress in grey and often deliver sermons to match. So much for clichés (well-deserved or not). The Reverend Richard Coles is an utter exception. Sure enough, when we saw him on his ‘first night in Bromley’, he dressed in grey and had on his white clerical collar, but he proved that he can talk in technicolour!
That proof came when the Churchill Theatre in Bromley hosted ‘An Audience with the Rev Richard Coles’ on 24th August. He is pictured above (centre) near the stage door, flanked by Bromley Buzz podcast co-presenters Zeenat Noorani and Darren Weale. Our one regret on the night was that Richard has retired as a vicar, so there is no chance to attend a service he leads and to listen to one of his sermons.
You have to be living quite a life to hold an audience spellbound talking on stage by yourself with no more than a glass of water on a small table for company. The Reverend Richard Coles is living such a life. Coming from a family of shoe manufacturers, whose UK business faded alongside so many others decades ago, a choirboy, musician in The Communards when they hit the charts, broadcaster, University Chancellor, crime writer, Strictly Come Dancing contestant, and retired vicar, Richard has led and is leading a uniquely varied and full life.
Richard clearly could have talked for many hours, if not days, and drawn further on his past and present. Reading up on him now, there is so much more that he could have said. Yet from talking about Roland Rat to his initial disinclination to go anywhere near joining the priesthood, to belated romance and the madness of grief – a very personal story – and winning the ‘golden whisk’ in a Christmas MasterChef competition, he showed himself to be a captivating, charming and funny storyteller, and an artist of the spoken word.
A man with a rare ability to talk about so much without his story wandering into a lengthy discourse on faith, music or any other tempting topic, Richard was a delight. He was also a patient delight, still answering questions from the audience when one or two ignored his ‘last question’ request as he eyed his journey to home and the south coast.
We hope Richard enjoyed his first visit (!) to Bromley as much as we did. He will appear at the Rye Literary Festival on 22nd September – details here. If you’re going from Bromley, he is worth the journey.