by Tessa Coombes, University of Bristol
The Reverend Richard Coles of Radio 4 and ‘The Communards’ fame, presented this year’s Policy and Politics Annual Lecture, the 21st in the series. The theme of the lecture was same sex marriage and the church, delivered by the Reverend as a ‘ramble down memory lane’ and very much part of his own personal life story.
The lecture was, by turns, amusing, informative and challenging as well as saddening. It veered from funny anecdotes to tales of tragedy; from personal life events to big questions of principle. Overall it was a brilliant piece of oratory with just the right level of information and challenge, as well as being more than sufficiently thought provoking.
Richard’s life story is well documented in his autobiography “Fathomless Riches: Or How I Went from Pop to Pulpit” published in 2014. It’s a colourful story of a young gay man from middle England making his way to London and becoming part of an ‘alternative gay culture’. In his presentation he described London in the 1980s as a polarized city: a place where Thatcher and Livingstone epitomized the ‘twin poles of values in the battlefield of London”. He saw it as a city where post-punk democratization was evident and an alternative gay culture was emerging, one with a ‘hard-left’ basis and a tribal culture, with a political common purpose. He told us about his involvement with the lesbian and gay support for the striking miners of South Wales, recently depicted in the film ‘Pride’. He describes the mid 1980s as a time of experimentation, creativity and excitement, when he found himself surrounded by a small group of people that came together to epitomize a significant cultural and political moment in gay history. Continue reading