Digital Love Letters

9th February 2024
Digital Love Letters

This Valentine's Day, as the world celebrates love in its many forms, together with our partners at York St John University’s Cinema and Social Justice project, and York Business School, we're proud to announce the online release of our celebrated film "Nature Matters."  

Intended as a ‘love letter to nature,’ this beautiful short film is a poignant cinematic ode to the British countryside with a call to action to protect it. It uses over a century of home movies, local news and documentary footage from Yorkshire and the North East of England. 

The 16-minute film is lovingly crafted from over 135 source films dating from the 1920s to the 2020s. Together they form a powerful and empowering short film that tugs on the heart strings.  

Featuring footage from Allendale, Saltburn, Blyth, Middlesbrough and Newcastle in the North East to York, Hebden Bridge, Sheffield, Robin Hood's Bay and the Yorkshire Dales. From rivers and rolling hills to seas and planting trees, the beautiful footage is like looking into the eyes of your first love … nature.  

Local news footage from the 1970s and 1980s shows young people positively taking action to protect and preserve the natural world that they care so much about. Meet Matthew aka ‘Nature boy’ who has set up his own wildlife magazine and another Matthew who skived off school to take a bus to Scotland to save the seals, leaving a note for his Mum behind. Dumpling Hall Middle School pupils campaign to save the whales and the Middlesbrough primary school ‘wombles’ of their day ‘Clean Up & Cheer Up’ their local area. 

In celebration of the film's online release, York St John University and the Yorkshire and North East Film Archives will be unveiling a series of "digital love letters" on social media. These snippets from the film will serve as reminders of the invaluable role that nature plays in our lives and the urgent need to nurture and protect it. Nature Matters will also be available to worldwide audiences for the first time as it’s released online.  

The film is touring around the two regions, with special screenings as far north as Hexham, the towns of Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Hull and coastal locations including Saltburn, Scarborough and Bridlington as well as rural locations like Guisborough. It's even been screened on a ‘off-grid’ cinema in Billingham as part of the Festival of Thrift.  

Nature Matters was jointly funded by research grants from York St John University as part of wider work on nature conservation and environmental stewardship, and by the National Lottery Heritage Fund who have supported the Yorkshire and North East Film Archives Nature Matters project.  

Dr Jenny Hall, Senior Lecturer: Tourism & Events, York St John University said:

"We are thrilled to share 'Nature Matters' with audiences worldwide. Via the universal language of film, it invites you to rekindle your love for the wonder and beauty of the world around us. 

"At a time when our natural world faces unprecedented challenges, this film serves as a powerful reminder of the profound beauty and intrinsic value of nature.  

“Through our 'digital love letters,' we hope to ignite a sense of appreciation and stewardship, reminding us not to be a toxic partner in our relationship with the environment." 

Alexandra Haley, Nature Matters Curator, Yorkshire and North East Film Archives said:

“Our fast-paced lives have disconnected us from our childhood fascination with flora and fauna, playful adventures in the wild and an innocent captivation with the natural world.  

“The power of archive footage is that it can transport us back in time, to see our environment through youthful eyes, reminded us of our strong bond and love of nature and why it’s so important to look after it.” 

Join us this Valentine's Day as we embark on a journey of love and appreciation for the beauty of nature. Follow York St John University and the Yorkshire Film Archive on social media to experience our "digital love letters" and join the conversation using #NatureMatters. 

Instagram: @yorkstjohn @yfanefa 

TikTok: @yorkstjohn 

Facebook: @YorkStJohnUniversity @YFAandNEFA 

To view the full film online, please visit     

You can book the short film for a screening in your community via