The Cali-R is an event that has been enjoyed by many people since 1997, SID HUDSON writes...
Our nights are a huge tribute to the California Ballroom, Dunstable, and a reunion of the fans who attended shows at the venue, which was built by Edwin Green at the bottom of Dunstable Downs in 1960.
Sadly, the California Ballroom closed its doors, for the last time, in 1979. I was a humble DJ there but after the closure, a part of the place always stayed in the back of my mind and the minds of thousands of other former Cali regulars. The roots of a reunion group were planted when I was asked to host a memorial night by a friend, Rose Rafters, for her brother John, who died tragically in 1996. The format of the night was old Cali tunes. It was a great success
and raised a lot of money for John's memorial garden.
I realised that the flame was still burning in the hearts of former Ballroom regulars, so on April
5th, 1997, my wife Jacqui and I organised our first Cali Reunion. With the aid of one poster,
displayed in our friend Joy Morris's pub, we sold out a 250-capacity venue. Another 100 were
turned away, so for the next Cali-R we booked the Queensway Hall, with a capacity of 800
Motown legend Edwin Starr was the headliner and he sold the place out. After a
couple more sell-out nights I was joined by California Ballroom and radio DJ Louie Martin and
specialist funk DJ Jelly Bean, giving the big events a two-floor option, just like in the old
In more recent times, Cali-R nights have been augmented by jazz-funk specialist Colin Watts, who has been a live/radio DJ for nearly 40 years and was a popular draw during his nine-year residency at the Crown, Dunstable, from 1985 to 1994, and Andy Chesham, owner of Vinyl Revelations record shop and a specialist DJ of Mod, reggae and soul sounds.
Nowadays, Cali-R has expanded beyond our wildest dreams. We were the prime movers in a campaign to have special street name plates, commemorating the site of the California Ballroom, were erected at Royce Close. Big events headlined by so many international stars moving to Dunstable Leisure Centre and then Dunstable Conference Centre, while soul nights have been held at the United Services Club and St Mary’s Club, Dunstable; Venue 360 and Luton Rugby Club, Luton; Barton Village Hall; St Vincent’s Social Centre and the Gateway Club, Houghton Regis; Rufus Centre, Flitwick; Harpenden Public Halls; and Dunstablians Rugby Club and the Fancott Arms previously, where all-dayers with live bands and DJs became renowned.
And apart from Cali-R events, we also supply bands and DJs to other event organisers.
Since the early days, Cali-R has given pleasure to thousands of people, who still come in large numbers time and time again! Even after all these years the youth of the 60s and 70s come and dance the night away along with other age groups too. But the nights are strictly for over 25s. Music featured at Cali-R is 60s, 70s and 80s soul, Motown, jazz/funk and reggae.
People from all over the world have planned their UK visit around Cali-R. It's been talked about on
BBC Radio 2, BBC Three Counties Radio, Chiltern FM, Classic Gold and various other radio stations up and down the country, as well as on prime-time Anglia Television.
It would be quite easy for me to take the credit for all this but presenting the Cali-R is truly a family affair. My wife Jacqui, two sons Brett and Brad, and daughter Darcie all contribute.
Special thanks also to Ian Philpot, Denis O’Donoghue, Jack Saunders, Mick Monaghan and Sally Parris.