Shade of the Canopy

Best of Brum at the Urban Tree Festival 2021

The fourth Urban Tree Festival runs from 15-23 May 2021 and Birmingham is the first city to feature within the festival, with its own festival hub page of tree-related events and activities.

Birmingham TreePeople, together with local artists, practitioners and others groups, have come together to contribute eight festival events, all of which are free to access or view. You can find all our events on the Birmingham Urban Tree Festival page or click on the individual links in our preview below.

Birmingham Events

This year we have eight activities or events running. We aim to expand on this next year so please consider joining our free monthly training to keep in the loop.

  • Street Tree Survey Techniques (short film) – how to survey trees (part of our citizen science project surveying 5,500 young trees to find out why they do not survive).
  • Begin your Tree Knowledge with a Tree Trail (short film) – Urban Forest Volunteer Steve Watson uses the Bournville Tree trail to present an easy way to start recognising and naming local trees.
  • Extreme Noticing: Trees Edition (short film) – an Alice-in-Wonderland story of how our weird and wonderful trees came to the fore during lockdown by – from fence-eating trees to franken-plants and beyond.
  • A Pilgrimage to the Trees (illustrated walk zine) – neurodivergent artist …kruse invites you to connect with your arboreal neighbours, admire them, enjoy their presence and take a moment to thank them for the silent work they do for us.
  • Mass Tree Sketching (live event / social sharing) – Urban Forest Volunteer Helen Roberts of Birmingham Urban Sketchers invites you to pick up pencil or paint and sketch trees during the festival week and share the results (via the Birmingham Urban Sketchers Facebook event or using the hashtag #urbantreesketches2021).
  • Tree Craftivism (instruction video) – BTP Chair, Tonia Clark, shows you how to make cross stitch signs that encourage people to look after trees.
  • Tree Identification Walk at Ten Acres (short film) – join arborist and co-founder of Sustainable Life, Alan Bale, for a tree ID walk through the Ten Acres woodland and discover some common trees and their features, uses and behaviours.
  • Mind the Trees! – mindfulness teacher and photographer Laura Babb of The Clear Space is leading a workshop to help attendees engage with nature through mindfulness techniques (pre-registration only; limited places).

Festival Overview

These are just a handful of events happening at the Urban Tree Festival. The full programme for the 2021 festival is available on the Urban Tree Festival website.

There are over 100 events across the UK, spread over nine days, all of them celebrating trees in an urban setting. There are discussions on everything from ancient trees to community groups, and a series of lunchtime webinars hosted by CPRE London. Speakers explore tree blossom and urban hedgerows, the London Urban Forest Plan and campaigning for trees.

There is a ‘Book Club’, with authors including Tracy Chevalier, Jonathan Drori, Anita Sethi, Ruth Pavey, Katharine Norbury, Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes.

Plus lots of events for families and children – check out The Drama Geezers and Anansi the Spider.

There is the launch of ‘Canopy’, an anthology of nature poetry and stories celebrating trees. And every morning the festival starts with a meditation in the company of a different species of tree.

The Urban Tree Festival also talks, walks, yoga and t’ai chi, visits to streets, woods and ancient trees, art workshops and town planning discussions, debates, music, crafts and campaigning. Tree care and human welfare. A blend of science and art, conservation and creativity. Trees for everyone.

It is run by volunteers, powered by local communities and most of the events are free – although a voluntary donation of £5 per event is suggested to help keep the festival running.

Pests and Diseases

Simon Needle, Principal Arboriculturalist for Birmingham City Council and Chair of the Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trusts, talks to BTP Chair Tonia Clark about the pests and diseases common in trees at the moment. There’s also a short piece on the rowan tree.

Highbury Orchard Community

David, Liz, Rhiannon and Cath are on the management committee for the Highbury Orchard Community in Moseley, next to Highbury Park. Tonia Clark from Birmingham TreePeople talks to them about the orchard and how they involve local people in the seasonal orchard tasks. Henbury’s Apple Trees are ancient apples with small fruit and bright red flowers.

Forestry Commission

beech tree canopy with sun shining through

Jim Smith, National Urban Forestry Advisor to the Forestry Commission, talks to Tonia Clark from Birmingham TreePeople about urban forests and the work of the FC. There’s also a short piece on the beech tree.

Tree Planting

Debbie Needle from Birmingham Trees for Life talks to Tonia Clark, from Birmingham TreePeople, about community tree planting. There’s also a short piece about the hawthorn, that is covered in white flowers in May.

Insects and Trees

These are pointed nail galls on a lime leaf, caused by a tiny mite. Photo from this website.

Liam Crowley talks to BTP about the impact of insects on trees and woodlands.

He is an entomologist at University of Birmingham and University of Oxford, specialising in this kind of insect study, in relation to trees (also see the pests and diseases podcast).

There’s also a short piece on the lime.

Tree Identification

yew tree berries and leaves up close

Ian McDermott, arboriculturalist, lecturer and trainer for BTP, talks to Chair Tonia Clark about tree identification: how to identify trees. There’s also a short piece on the yew tree, steeped in mystery and myth.


horse chestnut branch and flowers

Professor Rob MacKenzie, head of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFOR) at The University of Birmingham, talks to BTP Chair Tonia Clark, about its pioneering research into climate change and woodlands. There’s also a short piece on the horse chestnut, with its impressive flower spikes.

Health Benefits of Trees

Tonia Clark, from Birmingham TreePeople, interviews Eleanor Hoad, Forest School teacher, Urban Forest Volunteer and community gardener, about the health benefits of trees and a short piece on the birch tree, as they are a pioneer species, often found in heather moorlands.