Reverend Richard Coles brings his new show to Scotland

Having added new dates to his UK tour, Reverend Richard Coles is coming to Scotland.

Ahead of his Scottish escapades, the broadcaster, former vicar and member of The Communards speaks with chief sub-editor Rosie Morton about what audiences can expect…

We’re very excited to hear that you’re taking your show Borderline National Trinket to Scotland. Tell me about it.

Yes, I’m coming to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Inverness as well. It sort of began when I was at a do with my late husband David. Somebody said rather gushingly that they thought I was a national treasure and he revised that down to ‘borderline national trinket’. So that’s where that came from. But it was also because it occurred to me one day that if my CV landed on my desk, I would assume it was the work of a fantasist because it just seems so unlikely. To me, of course, it’s just my life. It’s just one day after another. But other people seem to find it thought-provoking, so I started talking about that and it developed from there.

And then of course the interesting thing is it’s not just me talking about myself (interesting to me, but maybe not to others), it’s that other people have also lived their lives. That’s what I love about a live audience – we get a chance to interact and find out what we think about things. We’ve all been round the block, we’ve listened to the same music, we’ve been to same places, we’ve endured what we’ve had to endure, and there’s something about sharing that that’s really rewarding. I enjoy it very much.

I suppose that interaction with the audience keeps it interesting for you as well – every show is different?

Yeah. I’ve always loved it in music, I’ve loved it as a vicar – the sense that you are with people. And of course much of my life has been in broadcasting so I’ve been relating to people down a microphone or through a lens, and that’s a bit different. I really enjoy it. But nothing really beats that live experience I think. So much of our life is mediated now that to actually spend time with real people in real time is great.

This show is an unfiltered look at your eclectic career and journey through life. What has been the biggest surprise to you in your career?

Probably that I’m still standing. I’ve never been water-skiing, but I suppose water-skiing is standing up and holding on while everything moves very quickly around you, and I think I’ve always done that. It’s been a sort of chaos, my life, in a way. But all of a sudden I’m 61 and I look behind me and I begin to see, ‘Oh well, maybe there was a pattern to this, that’s kind of interesting’. I’m hugely fortunate in life in so many ways. I feel very grateful for that. To still be standing after all that. It could have gone very differently really.

I also understand that your bowtie game is very strong in this tour of yours…

Very strong. Once I retired as a vicar, I took the dog collar off and I felt weirdly undressed. But I don’t want to wear a tie because it just feels like Jacob Rees-Mogg and I don’t want to do that. But the bowtie… One of the very few skills of manual dexterity I have is that I can tie my own bowtie. So I started wearing them and then I realised I’d become like Cyril Fletcher from That’s Life. I think I’ve become the Cyril Fletcher of the 2020s. It drives me mad that people don’t tie bowties. It’s easier to tie a bowtie than to fasten a pre-tied one. It looks so much better I think. I judge people now on whether they tie their own bowties.


Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?

Well, the last time I was touring I was in my twenties in the pop band, so life was a little more punchy in those days. When I go back to the hotel, my tour manager Marc has a dark and stormy and I have a Scotch. I like Speyside malt, Macallan preferred. I have a half of lager during the interval to freshen my palate, but the whisky is for afterwards.

When did you start drinking whisky?

I think I was in my 20s when I started going up to Glasgow. I was dating a chap in Glasgow who was lovely and he was a great fan of Islay malt, so he introduced me to Laphroaig. I suppose like lots of people in the 80s I started drinking those very peaty whiskies, but as I’ve got older I find I’m much more attracted to Speyside now. My favourite whiskies would be there. I visited a while ago and trotted along to see various distilleries and had a nice time.

What’s your view of superstitions in live performance?

It’s not really superstition, but there are unconscious things that I do (until somebody pointed them out to me). I think like most live performers there are certain little ritual acts that I do, and it’s to appease the gods of chance (although I would never consciously think that). There are certain routines I like to stick to.

My partner is an actor and one of the things I was really excited to talk to him about was theatre traditions. And then every time I mentioned one he said, ‘nobody does that anymore’. And I’d say, ‘What do you mean? You have to go on stage with your right foot.’ And he said, ‘nobody does that’. I said, ‘You can’t mention the Scottish play’, and he said ‘nobody does that’. So it has been rather disappointing that all of these theatrical traditions that I thought I might enjoy myself now that I’m on tour, he says ‘no, that’s just embarrassing’.

The tour schedule is packed. Do you take your dogs with you?

No, it would be a grotesque mistake to do that because they are so badly behaved. Also they’re very old now. They would be so grumpy. I’ve a wonderful person who looks after the dogs in the house while I’m away. In fact, now they like her more than me. She’s Polish and she speaks to them in Polish, and I’m slightly irrationally anxious that they’ll forget how to speak English. But of course they’re dogs…

They’re dachshunds – Daisy and Pongo. Pongo used to love rolling in fox poo – that was his specialism. So ‘Pong’ became Pongo. I once had to do a drive back from Galloway and just before I got in the car, Pongo rolled. I had to drive for nine hours with this stinking dog in the car, windows open.

What’s your earliest memory of Scotland?

My first trip to Scotland was on tour with Red Wedge, playing with Billy Bragg and Paul Weller, and we played in Edinburgh. We stayed in a rather embarrassingly luxurious castle in Dalhousie. That was my first trip. My mother grew up in Scotland. She went to St Leonards School. I imbibed a bit of Scottish-ness from her I think.

For tickets or to view more details of Reverend Richard Coles’ UK tour, please visit his WEBSITE.

Eastwood Park Theatre, Glasgow – 13 January
Tivoli Theatre, Aberdeen 15 January
Eden Court, Inverness – 1 March
Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh – 3 March
Whitehall Theatre, Dundee – 4 March