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Writers' Retreat


Founder of the Under Rough Ridge Writers' Retreat


Loved writer, friend, husband of author and former judge, Rose Riddell, and beloved father, Mike Riddell died unexpectedly on 26 March 2022 aged 69. Mike is remembered for the quality and extent of his writing and for his passionate and egalitarian commitment to fostering creativity and justice for all New Zealanders.


The author of 12 published books, he was also the writer and co-producer of films and plays. He completed a doctorate on the writings of New Zealand poet James K. Baxter and lectured at the University of Otago. In 2002 he wrote and produced a play, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, about James K. Baxter, which became a sell-out success and toured New Zealand, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cheltenham. In 2003 he was approached by a UK producer to develop an adaptation of his novel The Insatiable Moon.


In the interim, he produced the short film Cake Tin, and set up Screen Dunedin. Mike also originated and managed the first 48HOURS film competition in Dunedin. In 2009 he co-produced the feature film The Insatiable Moon, based on his book.  The film starred Rawiri Paratene and attracted six nominations in the 2011 New Zealand Film Awards. Of those nominations, two received awards, for best actor and best supporting actor.

From 2003, Mike was involved solely in full-time screenwriting. In 2012 he received a New Zealand Film Commisson Talent Award. He worked for many years with producer Tim Sanders on the full-length movie script for The Guinea Pig Club, about Archibald McIndoe, the pioneering Kiwi plastic surgeon during WW2. The film was due to start production in 2023.

Mike’s work was backed by his commitment not only to writing about issues but also doing something to alleviate them. For eight years Mike was minister of a church in Ponsonby, (he had a Master's in theology) where he established the Community of Refuge Trust, a community housing organisation still in existence 38 years later and providing houses for over 500 people.

Mike's novel The Insatiable Moon was inspired by the people he met during his time as a minister, especially those facing homelessness. Mike famously stripped to his boxer shorts at a council meeting in an attempt to stall the sale of council housing.

Not long after Mike and his family moved to the small village of Ōtūrēhua, he offered his experience to set up and help run the Under Rough Ridge Writers' Retreat. He set up the website, gained all the funding, and kept in communication with the writers who came from all over New Zealand to attend the retreats  – the sixth of which will run this year.


Mike kept extending the vision and we now have a fully funded residency for writers for three months in our village. We welcomed the inaugural residents in 2022.


For over 30 years Mike entwined his writing skills with his leadership skills to create opportunities for writers and for those who need our stories. We’ll remember him for his kindness, his generosity, his passion, his activism and his resounding laugh.

Just before he died, Mike published a book of poems, entitled Central. The following is taken from that collection.


consider these hills

this sky

open that shuttered heart

until light enters

adjust your


take in a fathomless

depth of field

this infinite panorama

resolving itself

the living image

finding refuge within

something developing

amid the gloom

printing itself

on your soul

these hills

this sky

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