California Ballroom - Dunstable

For almost 20 years between 1960 and 1979, the California Ballroom Dunstable was the largest venue for entertainment in the South East of England. It played host to all the bands you've heard of and many that you haven't.

This web site is a reminder for all who grew up in and around the California Ballroom, and loved the place, the people and the music.

The Cali lives on!

California BallroomTM,
Whipsnade Road, Dunstable, UK

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I guess over the past four or five years just about everything imaginable has been written, commented on or produced about the famed Wigan Casino. All kinds of merchandise ranging from books to CDs to mouse mats. While I'm fully in favour of this swathe of nostalgia about this historic venue, I have to say I am somewhat puzzled about the fact that until quite recently another great soul venue of the 60s and 70s has been almost completely forgotten about. That venue being Dunstable's California Ballroom.

The Cali, as it was affectionately known, was without doubt the country's top soul venue in that week in week out, it pulled thousands of people from every corner of the UK. By the time Wigan opened in 1973 the Cali had been going for over 13 years attracting all the top American soul artists to perform - artists such as James Brown, Al Green, the Commodores plus the Motown and Philadelphia Revue packages. When it closed in 1979 to be demolished to make way for a housing estate, it had been running for nearly 20 years. Whilst I readily accept that Wigan was the top venue for Northern Soul at the time, it was not, despite what some commentators have stated, the country's top soul venue; that honour clearly belonged to the Cali.

With the resurgence in recent years of Northern Soul and the nostalgia surrounding, in particular, Wigan Casino, it's quite possible that the Cali, primarily because it was based in the South, has become the poor relation and somewhat forgotten about - until now. Happily it seems there is quite a bit of movement aimed at restoring the Cali to its rightful position as our right up there amongst our most renowned soul venues. This started with a sell out reunion night held earlier this month at the Dunstable Leisure Centre which saw many original DJs in attendance together with The Real Thing performing live. Also, a brilliant new web site has just been launched; that features photos, dates and memories.

All I can say is that it's about time too. When you see how many books and CDs dedicated to the so called 'legendary' soul clubs (most of which only lasted for a year or two) it's satisfying to know that due props is now being given to one that truly deserves that status.

Paddy Grady
The Voice of Northern Soul

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