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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nadia Khomami Arts and culture correspondent

Steps singer steps in to help save church where band shot ‘iconic’ Tragedy video

Lisa Scott-Lee, (centre), with Steps bandmates (from left to right) Faye Tozer, Lee Latchford-Evans, Ian ‘H’ Watkins and Claire Richards.
Lisa Scott-Lee, (centre), with Steps bandmates (from left to right) Faye Tozer, Lee Latchford-Evans, Ian ‘H’ Watkins and Claire Richards. Photograph: JustGiving

To some, it may look like nothing more than a crumbling community church in the suburbs of London. To lovers of 1990s dance-pop, however, it is the site of a music video that would become forever etched into the minds of millennials.

But All Saints church in Harrow Weald – the setting for the video of the Steps single Tragedy – faced an uncertain future after it suffered structural collapse of its external passageway last summer, revealing poor foundations. And when it came to cash, the church just couldn’t make it all alone.

But, upon hearing the news, Steps singer Lisa Scott-Lee made a significant donation – in a bid to ensure the church survives. As such, a slice of pop history – as well as a place of worship – is probably going to being preserved.

Part of the crumbling All Saints church in Harrow Weald.
Part of the crumbling All Saints church in Harrow Weald. Photograph: JustGiving

“I can’t let this be a tragedy,” the singer said as she donated £2,000 to a fundraising page, prompting Steps fans around the world to make a string of additional donations.

Scott-Lee saw the appeal on Twitter on Wednesday night and found the news hard to bear. She knew she “had to step in to help the beautiful church that helped launch our careers”, she said. “It holds so many memories for me and Steps.”

The 1998 cover of the Bee Gees single went to No 1 in the UK charts and sold 1.4m copies. The video centred on the female members of the group being walked down the aisle, only to be rescued and whisked away from their mundane husbands-to-be by their peppy bandmates. An accompanying dance routine – featuring hands around the face and some serious shimmying – rivalled the popularity of the Macarena on school playgrounds.

Since her donation, she has received an abundance of grateful messages on social media, “with one calling me Saint Scott-Lee, which is a bit far but very sweet”, she said. “I feel very fortunate that I’m still enjoying a successful career with Steps 24 years on. Tragedy was our first No 1 UK hit and sold more than the original Bee Gees version – they thanked us personally at the time.”

“The church provided a beautiful backdrop to the Tragedy video,” she recalled. “The truth is, we didn’t have the budget for extras and so we asked our families to feature in the video. Our real dads walked the Steps girls down the aisle.”

Her funniest memory of the shoot is driving “round and round the church in a wedding car with my dad, Tony, and going past the bus stop numerous times as the director wasn’t ready for me”, she said. “The lovely elderly ladies at the bus stop were pointing at me as they thought I’d been stood up and felt sorry for me.”

She added: “People say our Tragedy video is iconic and I felt this donation was the least I could do. And with lots of people experiencing difficulties right now, I wanted to give something back and help the church at Christmas time.

“I think the church was a lucky charm for Steps, it’s all come full circle in a wonderful way,.”

The Rev John Barker, the vicar at All Saints Harrow Weald, said the donation meant the world to the church, which needs £50,000 to make all the repairs, including to the toilets. “The fact that it was a total surprise makes it even more of an early Christmas present.

“Last summer was very dry and all of our foundations started to move. The church is on clay and the clay dried out. The passageway that links the church to the loos had the most enormous cracks, we had to knock it down before it collapsed on us. We were told it’s going to cost us about £50,000 to replace it.”

Steps, which also consists of Lee Latchford-Evans, Claire Richards, Faye Tozer and Ian “H” Watkins, have just completed a UK tour after the release of their latest album, Platinum Collection. The record celebrates the group’s 25 years in the music industry and went to No 1 last summer – making Steps the first British, mixed-gender group to reach the top spot in the album charts in four consecutive decades.

Apart from Scott-Lee’s contribution, he said the church had had more than 25 donations from places including Canada, Australia and the United States. “And everybody’s saying the same, that their lives have been touched by that music video. They don’t want to see the church disappear. I’m so grateful and thanking God for this surprise.”

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