Irene Snelling, who died in 2004, aged 93, was a life-long resident of Limpsfield and a keen supporter of not only her church (Oxted United Reformed Church), but of the musical and artistic life of the local community. As part of the use of Irene’s bequest to the church, members agreed to sponsor The Bluehouse Festival.
The Bluehouse Festival was first held in October 2006, and has been held every other year since. In that time, the festival has continued to evolve, but has always been about celebrating the arts and contributing to the cultural life of the local community. Every festival has been based at the Oxted United Reformed Church – a beautiful, modern venue, welcoming to all and much loved by Irene – and has sought to deliver an exciting programme of events, catering to a diverse range of cultural interests.
The Snelling Lecture, delivered by a distinguished speaker on a topical issue of interest, is named in honour of Irene, and has been delivered annually since 2006. Past deliverers of the Lecture have included Rev Richard Coles, Baroness Shirley Williams, Sir Simon Jenkins, Baroness Julia Neuberger, Baroness Joan Bakewell, Falklands War veteran Simon Weston and BBC journalist George Alagiah.
Oxted United Reformed Church - ‘The Church of the Peace of God’ - was built in 1935. It was then a Congregational Church and became a URC in 1971 when the new denomination was formed.
A major transformation to the Church buildings was completed in 2002. As a versatile, multi-purpose facility with excellent acoustics, it is now used by many groups within the local community. It is hosting The Bluehouse Festival for the seventh time.