The California Ballroom at the bottom of the Downs in Dunstable was the heartbeat for Bedfordshire youth in the 60's and 70's. People came from all over the country to dance the night away and see all the major acts from the Rolling Stones to the Supremes. It closed in 1979 with a performance from jazz legend Grover Washington Jnr. For 20 years throughout the 60s & 70s, the Green & Ilka families provided Dunstable with a premiere venue.
Cali-R is a reunion celebrating the last ten years
of the ballroom, the music is Motown, Soul, Reggae,
Jazz Funk from the 60's and 70's.
all began when Sid Hudson the promoter was asked
to host a memorial night by a friend called Rose
Rafters for her late brother John who died tragically
in 1996. The format of the night was old Cali
tunes. It was a great success and raised lots
of money for John's memorial garden.
5th April 1997 Sid & Jacqui organised their
first Cali Reunion and with the aid of one poster
displayed in a friend Joy Morris's pub sold out
a 250 capacity venue. 100 were turned away so
Sid booked the Queensway Hall with a capacity
of 800 downstairs. Lots of investment and hard
work was put in and three weeks before the event
it was sold out.
took a big gamble for the next reunion and booked
Edwin Starr who he considered to be the best act
from the era still playing today. Another sell
out and another great night, people singing and
dancing all night to the old tunes of the California
Sid then decided to put a Jazz/Funk room upstairs with legendary DJ Louie Martin supported by JB. This gave Cali-R goers a two floor option just like old ballroom with The Devil's Den.
The acts that have appeared at the Cali-r so far are Edwin Starr, The Stylistics, Emperor Rosko, The Fatback Band, The Drifters, Jimmy Ruffin, The Supremes, Heatwave, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Real Thing, Gwen Dickeys Rose Royce, George McCrae and Clem Curtis and the Foundations.
Reeves & The Vandellas with Promoters
Sid & Jacqui Hudson. Photograph by
Martin (left) hosted the Cali in it's
final years and went on to make Didoz
the hottest soul club in East Anglia.
became a part of the legendary funk mafia
which revolutionised the soul scene in
the 70's & 80's and was made up of
top dj's like Chris Hill, Robbie Vincent,
has enjoyed much success on the airwaves
but still loves playing his set of old
classics at the Cali-r more than anything.
Legend Jimmy Ruffin with Jacqui & Sid
Real Thing & Gwen Dickey
New Drifters visiting Cali-R in Dunstable
New Drifters capture the Cali-R audience
to development the Queensway Hall is now closed,
however on April 28th 2000 The Cali-R found a
new home in Dunstable Leisure Centre. Another
great night was had by all, Edwin Starr was called
back by public demand for this event.
Cali-R is mainly visited by people aged 30 or
over, but many young people also enjoy the Cali's
very special atmosphere.
night ends with everyone raising their hands and
singing to Diana Ross's 'Ain't No Mountain High
the moment you arrive you will sample a warm and
friendly greeting by Ian Parris and his security
staff. Sally Parris, Head of Public Relations,
will help you with any queries.
are a few quotes from our stars!!!
would love to come back." Gwen Dickey (Rose
a night, the atmosphere was electric." Lillian
you for your wonderful hospitality. I would love
to come again." George McRae
do this again as soon as possible - the audience
were amazing." Ray Lewis (New Drifters)
even have our own professional photographer,
Ian Philpot (above) who will be very pleased
to take your photographs, should you require
speciality is photographing the 'Stars',
and you with them - if you ask him beforehand.
will not be disappointed.
cost is very reasonable and your picture
will be a wonderful souvenir of your visit.
here for a trip down Memory Lane