Exploring the madness of grief

Rev Richard Coles

“If my CV landed on my desk I would think it the work of a fantasist”, said the Reverend  Richard Coles at the beginning of his talk. Well indeed, Richard’s CV is creative and diverse. He is the only vicar in the Church of England to have had a number one single. He is one of the nation’s best-loved television vicars having taken part in Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Masterchef, Mastermind, Pointless Celebrities, Have I Got News for You – the list goes on and on. He has become a national treasure.

Richard was in Rye as part of the Arts Festival talking about his book, The Madness of Grief, to a packed audience in St. Mary’s church. The book deftly recalls the time from his partner David Coles falling ill until his funeral. Richard explained that he wanted to share with people what it was like for him, recognising that grief is not a linear model of denial, anger, or depression. It is much more circular and it is different for everyone.

Richard was interviewed by Andy Bantock, who worked for the BBC in the early 80’s and is the Festival’s Technical Co-Ordinator. He asked pertinent questions to which we all wanted to know the answers.

Richard said that he missed David terribly and was worried that he would fade from him but for the moment there is the phantom cigarette smoke and the dreams to remind him of his partner. He worries that he couldn’t save David and that he could have done more, a feeling that so many people experience and for which there are no answers.

Although the topic of grief is deeply emotional Richard managed to interweave humour and laughter into the dialogue. He is funny and amusing and entertaining and although he has dark moments of grief, he is ready to share his journey in the hope that it will help others also travelling a similar path.

Image Credits: kt bruce .


  1. Rev. Richard is a fascinating man but sadly for many of us we missed many of his witticisms as the sound in St. Mary’s was terribly boxy and muffled. As for the interviewer, well his questions were a mystery! Maybe the sound nearer the front of the church was better but even after hand-held mikes were given to the participants things were far from clear….
    Such a pity


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