On 11 December 1990 a documentary was broadcast on ITV which told the remarkable story of the response of ordinary people around to planet to world changing events. Dear Mr Gorbachev looked at the extraordinary impact of the new President of the Soviet Union on international affairs. Directed by Michael Grigsby and produced by Barony Film and TV Productions the documentary travelled around the world interviewing a selection of people who had written to Gorbachev voicing their hopes and fears for the future. The programme-makers also gained exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the offices in the Kremlin where the letters to President Gorbachev were processed.
The production papers for the documentary have been deposited with the University of Stirling Archives by Barbara McKissack, the programme’s Producer and a member of the University Court.
“Across the globe ordinary people and the famous inundated Gorbachev’s post bag with pleas for leadership. Travelling to meet families in Ireland, Vietnam vets in USA, Italian aristocrats, East German citizens and of course visiting the Kremlin our documentary aimed to bring people’s stories to the heart of a global news story.”Barbara McKissack, Producer, Dear Mr Gorbachev
The collection provides a detailed record of the making of the programme including contracts, agreements, shooting schedules, accounts, broadcast information, promotional material, press cuttings, reviews and photographs. It also includes copies of hundreds of letters written to President Gorbachev which provided the raw materials for both the documentary and a book of selected letters, also called Dear Mr Gorbachev, published by Cannongate in 1990.
For students of world history and international politics the collection provides a fascinating case-study of a collective response to major events in a time before social media. As the critic Sheridan Morley noted in his prescient review of the programme in The Times in December 1990 “Letter-writers need to be cherished, for they will soon be as scarce as stained-glass artists.”