CALI-R History

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.

The 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.

It 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.

On 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.

Sid 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 Ballroom.

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.

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas with Promoters Sid & Jacqui Hudson. Photograph by Ian Philpot

Louie Martin
Louie Martin (left) hosted the Cali in it's final years and went on to make Didoz the hottest soul club in East Anglia.

He 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, and Froggy.

Louie has enjoyed much success on the airwaves but still loves playing his set of old classics at the Cali-r more than anything.

Motown Legend Jimmy Ruffin with Jacqui & Sid


The Real Thing & Gwen Dickey


The New Drifters visit the Cali-R at Dunstable
The New Drifters visiting Cali-R in Dunstable


The New Drifters visit the Cali-R at Dunstable
The New Drifters capture the Cali-R audience

Due 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.

The Cali-R is mainly visited by people aged 30 or over, but many young people also enjoy the Cali's very special atmosphere.

The night ends with everyone raising their hands and singing to Diana Ross's 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough'.

From 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.

Here are a few quotes from our stars!!!

"We would love to come back." Gwen Dickey (Rose Royce)

"What a night, the atmosphere was electric." Lillian Lopez (Odyssey)

"Thank you for your wonderful hospitality. I would love to come again." George McRae

"Let's do this again as soon as possible - the audience were amazing." Ray Lewis (New Drifters)

We even have our own professional photographer, Ian Philpot (above) who will be very pleased to take your photographs, should you require him.

Ian's speciality is photographing the 'Stars', and you with them - if you ask him beforehand.

You will not be disappointed.

The cost is very reasonable and your picture will be a wonderful souvenir of your visit.


Click here for a trip down Memory Lane




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