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Steps turn down gig in Dubai over country’s ‘archaic’ LGBT+ laws

Steps have refused to play a gig in Dubai because the contract stipulated there should be “no mention of sexuality,” band member Ian “H” Watkins has said.

Speaking at the Attitude Pride Awards 2023, the 47-year-old Welsh singer said: “Recently, we have just turned down a gig in the Emirates in Dubai, specifically, because of their human rights policies and specifically their laws on LGBTQ+ people.

“We got offered a very lovely sum of money, but, in the contract, it did say no mention of sexuality and for me, as a gay man, I did say ‘that doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not going to be part of that’.”

Same sex relationships are illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai is one of the seven emirates which make up the UAE.


The five-piece group – made up of Lee Latchford-Evans, Claire Richards, Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer and Watkins – previously performed in the UAE in 2018, but Watkins said the country’s laws have changed since then and are now a lot more “archaic”.

He explained: “We did a gig in Dubai years ago, but the laws have changed a lot since then.

“Actually, the whole world has progressed, but the laws in the Emirates and Dubai are even more archaic now.

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“I think, if we took a stand and did our show, as it was, I, specifically would be in danger.

“I would go to jail, we would absolutely be in contempt of the government.

“But we can do our bit and we will actually go up and say, ‘no, we’re not doing that’, and that creates even more noise.”

He said he had told his fellow group members they could perform without him if they wanted, but they refused.

Steps in their heyday: (L-R) Lee Latchford-Evans, Ian “H” Watkins, Claire Richards, Lisa Scott-Lee and Faye Tozer

Steps member Claire Richards, who was also at the event, called the decision to turn down the gig, a “no brainer”.

She said: “It’s absolutely what we stand for as a band and all of us support H to the hill, it’s not even a question.

“I mean, there’s an argument to say we could have gone. A lot of people say ‘go and fly the flag’ and do it that way but that’s giving oxygen to it.”

Last year, comedian Joe Lycett attracted outrage and praise in equal measure after staging a stunt in which he claimed to shred £10,000 in protest of David Beckham’s controversial multimillion-pound World Cup promotion deal with Qatar.

Homosexuality is also illegal in the Middle East country, which shares a border with the UAE.

Steps – most famous for their hit track Tragedy – formed in 1997 following a small advert in The Stage entertainment paper, searching for a five-piece line-dancing pop group.

They went on to score a string of top five singles, two number one albums and support Britney Spears in during her 1999 tour. A comeback album and UK tour in 2017 celebrated their 20th anniversary, and in 2022 they released a Platinum Collection album.


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