If you are in Bangalore, hug a tree this weekend. In a first, the Neralu—Bengaluru Tree Festival aims to celebrate the city’s trees, with workshops, an art exhibition, dance and music performances. Planning for the festival, which is completely crowd-funded and put together by a large team of volunteers, began in August.

The core team of six came together, predictably, because of their love for trees, in a plant taxonomy workshop at the city’s University of Agricultural Sciences. “While we are very keen on trees we realized most people walk by trees without even knowing what the local name of the tree is," says Arpana Basappa, a volunteer who works full-time as an organic certification evaluator with the Institute for Marketecology Control Pvt. Ltd, a certification and inspection body for eco-friendly products.

The team considered creating a mobile application that would let a person walking past a tree know more about it. “That didn’t work out, but the tree festival was born," she says.

A hundred have signed up as volunteers. “We are so overwhelmed by the number of people coming in to offer us their time and resources," says Basappa, adding that the positive feedback is what keeps the core team going. “The momentum was so great, the only way to go was ahead," she says.

The festival, formally being held over the weekend at the Bal Bhavan in Cubbon Park, has already begun with a hug-a-tree campaign on social media—Bangaloreans can take pictures of themselves hugging a tree and tweet with the hashtags #neralu and #treelover.

Tree walks, led by city-based naturalists, will be held on both days. During the festival, artist Sangeetha Kadur will conduct a Tree Journal workshop, with participants being asked to observe and feel trees, leaves and seeds, and then sketch them.

There’s much more on the programme: screenings of films provided by the Films Division, storytelling workshops, and talks by wildlife photographer Kalyan Varma on “Attempts at Photographing the Grandeur of Trees" and artist Suresh Jayaram on German horticulturalist Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, who contributed to the Lalbagh Botanical Garden in the city.

Both days will end with music and dance performances. On Saturday evening, there will be a dance performance on stories about the forest by Soliga Pusumaale Kalasangha, a performing group of the Soliga tribe from the Biligirirangana Betta (BR Hills) in Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar district. On Sunday evening, there will be a performance by Bhoomi Thaayi Balaga, a Bangalore-based folk music band.

Neralu—Bengaluru Tree Festival will be held on 8-9 February, 7.30am-6pm. The workshops are free. Click here for details.

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