Iconic noughties pop band Steps rounded off the UK’s biggest queer celebration Brighton Pride yesterday (6 August), with member Ian ‘H’ Watkins sending a powerful message of solidarity to the trans community.
Steps topped the bill at Brighton Pride’s Fabuloso festival on Sunday, with all five members – Ian ‘H’ Watkins, Claire Richards, Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer and Lee Latchford-Evans – reuniting for the first and only time in 2023.
The group were introduced to the stage by RuPaul’s Drag Race winner The Vivienne, before launching into a setlist crammed full of their biggest hits.
Opening with their 1999 single “Love’s Got a Hold on My Heart”, they moved into performing their number one hit “Tragedy”, fan favourite “5, 6, 7, 8”, and their recent collaboration with Drag Race judge Michelle Visage, “Heartbreak In This City”.
The band also treated fans to exclusive covers of monster queer pop tunes “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, and “Unholy” by non-binary and trans icons Sam Smith and Kim Petras. They closed the evening with a dazzling rendition of their mammoth number one hit, “Stomp”.
Ian ‘H’ Watkins dazzled in white shorts during Steps’ Brighton Pride show. (Getty/Lorna Thomson)
Yet there was one moment in the performance that left the crowd in tears, and it had nothing to do with seeing Ian ‘H’ Watkins’ toned legs in tight white shorts.
Taking a moment out of the setlist, Watkins stepped away from his bandmates to address the crowd and honour those in the LGBTQ+ community who are enduring rising hostility.
“Those people under attack, especially, are the trans community, who we love,” he declared, urging the audience to turn the torchlights on their phones on and hold them in the air.
“To trans people, to people who are identifying in a different way or maybe you just need to hear this: you matter. You are valued, and you are loved,” he said.
As the band then launched into their 1998 song “Heartbeat”, a sea of white balloons were released into the air in support of the trans community.
Last month, British prime minister Rishi Sunak was secretly filmed mocking trans women, while equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has heavily hinted that new guidance will force schools to out trans pupils to their parents.
On the opposition’s side, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds has said that the party no longer plans to introduce self-ID for trans people as part of its Gender Recognition Act ‘reform’.
Following the show, Watkins used his Instagram page to clarify why it was important for him to speak out during the performance.
“A [Steps] show is a safe space. It’s a place where you can be YOU. We’re all different. But at a Steps show, different means beautiful,” he wrote, alongside a photo of the group ahead of their performance.
“We mustn’t forget that even though Pride is about celebration, parts of our community are still under attack. They are under attack because they live in fear of being themselves.”
Steps’ Brighton Pride performance marked their last for a while, with Claire Richards recently confirming that the group plans to take a short break.