AOTW- Rory Ridley-Duff

Rory Ridley-Duff

About the Author:
Rory is an educator, writer and composer.

Born in Sussex, England in 1962, Rory graduated from London University in 1986 with a music degree. His postgraduate studies culminated in a PhD from Sheffield Hallam University where he completed research on intimate relationships and democratic governance. He lives in Yorkshire with his wife, Caroline, and his two children, Natasha and Bethany.

Rory developed his early career throughout the 1990s in London, firstly as Data Centre Manager at Procter & Gamble HABC, then as a software developer and worker-director of Computercraft Ltd. He moved to Yorkshire in 1998, and in 2001 became MD of First Contact Software Ltd where he won a DTI Smart Award for contributions to innovation in database design. In 2002, he won a Hallam PhD Studentship that enabled him to establish a new career as a university lecturer/researcher focusing on governance in cooperatives and social enterprises. He is now a Senior Lecturer in Organisation Behaviour and Human Resource Management at Sheffield Hallam University.

Professional Interests

Since 2009, he has been recognised by Marquis's Who's Who in the World in 2009 for his contributions to music and knowledge. He became an UnLtd/HEFCE Ambassador for Social Enterpreneurship in Higher Education in 2010, and also member of the editorial board of the Social Enterprise Journal. His active research interests cover Governance, Gender Relations, Cooperatives and Social Enterprise. In 2010, he established the MSc Co-operative and Social Enterprise Management at Sheffield Business School.

His writing on gender issues is reflected in the book Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy. In November 2010, the third edition will be published by Libertary Editions (based in Seattle, USA). Libertary will also publish Rory's first novel, Friends or Lovers, written to explore aspects of his PhD study that were difficult to discuss openly in a university setting.


Interview with Rory Ridley-Duff 
"Rory Ridley-Duff is an educator, writer and composer."

HP: You have published a novel called Friends or Lovers. But before we get into that, Rory can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Rory Ridley-Duff: At the moment, I’m a university lecturer at Sheffield Business School, but over the course of my life I’ve turned my hand to many things.  I was born in West Wittering, a small seaside resort on the southern coast of England near Chichester (an old Roman town).  I studied music at college and university, but found no easy way to make a career out of this.  It was my 12 years at Computercraft Ltd, a worker co-operative in London, that marked a turning point in my working life.  I became interested in co-operative businesses and human relationships at work, and acted as a consultant to many social sector organisations while they introduced computer technology. That eventually led me into academia where I studied for a PhD, and I am now a researcher and course leader.

HP: Can you tell us a bit about your family?

Rory Ridley-Duff: My mother is Austrian and my father Irish, but I was born and raised in England.  I have four older sisters, one who lives in Australia.  I met my wife, Caroline, through a mutual friend at university and we married in 1989.  We have two children, Natasha (17) and Bethany (13).  When Bethany was conceived, we decided to move north and settled in South Yorkshire, near Sheffield.

HP: What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Having a happy home and family life.  We’ve faced many challenges over the years and found ways through them all.  There are an abundance of distractions and pressures that divide husbands from wives, break up family, and create tension between mothers, fathers and their children.  Somehow, we find ways to remain healthy and happy, and have plenty of laughs along the way.

HP:You have had letters 'in the press' many times such as, Victory for cooperativism? (30th May 2009) and Does feminism discriminate against men? (14th Aug 2008) but more recently, Ending Barclays' tax avoidance (18th February 2011).

Can you tell us a little about these? Do they all focus around a general topic?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I do have an interest in politics, but am not actively involved in political party politics.  My principle commitments are to human dignity, equitable relationships, freedom from oppression (for both women and men). For this reason, I’ve taken to campaigning against the corrupt financial system and bankers, and for co-operative institutions that promote equity and fairness.

HP: You have two other books actually: Silent Revolution: Creating and Managing Social Enterprises and Emotion, Seduction and, Intimacy: Alternative Perspectives on Organisation Behaviour. Can you tell us about these novels? Did you plan on writing them or was it just something that came together on it own?

Rory Ridley-Duff: These books are non-fiction, but still full of stories.  The first is a book for people who want to understand the concept of social enterprise (a more humane way to create businesses that nourish rather than exploit people who work in them).  The second book is closely linked to the novel.  It was written at the same time to explore the same issues, but using the lens of a researcher rather than novelist.  I will always see Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy as the companion book to Friends or Lovers, for those that want to understand the research work that underpins the issues in the novel.

HP: Finally you have a newer book Understanding Social Enterprise: Theory and Practice co-authored with Mike Bull at Manchester Metropolitan University for Sage Publications. From what I understand this is a text book for a class. What was your idea behind writing the novel, why this topic?

Rory Ridley-Duff: This is a student text to learn about co-operative and social enterprises.  We use it in our university.  It went into reprint within 6 months so it must be finding a market throughout the world.  In 1997, I was part of a group of people who established Social Enterprise London, a new agency that supports ‘socialised’ forms of enterprise and a co-operative economy.  The strapline of the social enterprise movement in the UK is ‘trading for people and planet’, so the link with my other work is the focus on human relationships at work.  It is the first book of its kind and seems to be helping to build a worldwide movement in social enterprise education.

HP: You also do consulting / Research Services though not independently anymore. You now can be contacted through Sheffield Hallam University and you arrange work through an appropriate research center.

Can you tell us a little about your work as a consultant and researcher? Can it sometimes be tedious? Do you enjoy it?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Research, particularly the type of research I undertake, is extremely challenging. My largest study I have undertaken is a 3 year anthropological study, working with the people I was studying, and socialising with them outside work to understand all the inter-connections that affect their lives.  Some aspects of research are tedious (such as transcribing audio journals and interviews), but writing research papers, disseminating them at conferences, meeting people from all over the world to discuss research, and introducing it to courses in the university – these are all highly enjoyable activities.

HP: As above, you are an educator and composer. What made you want to be a writer as well?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I’ve always taken enjoyment in writing.  My wife and I were pen friends before we decided to have a closer relationship, and we lived apart for over a year while she completed her university degree.  Letter writing was pivotal to our relationship.  As I got better jobs, I started writing software manuals and study guides.  While not as enjoyable as novel writing, it helped me craft my communication skills.

HP: Do you intend to make writing a career?

Rory Ridley-Duff: My work (as member of an academic faculty) involves constant reading and writing so I see it as integral to my career.  Would I like to be a popular novelist?  It’s possible – writing Friends or Lovers made me realise that some issues cannot be adequately discussed or explored in academic writing.  Exploring relationship issues through art is often the best way to learn about their complexity.

HP: Tell us your latest news?

Rory Ridley-Duff: The last four weeks have been hectic but enjoyable.  We’ve introduced a new course on co-operatives and social enterprises at my university – the first classes took place the week before last.  Last Saturday and Sunday, I was at the Co-operative Congress in Birmingham.  The most interesting news there was the initiation of a project to create a co-operative university.  On Monday and Tuesday, I was in Durham in North England providing support for a new group of social enterprise researchers funded by one the UK’s research councils (ESRC).

HP: Your first fiction novel Friends or Lovers which came out in November 2010. Can you tell us a little about it?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I wrote this at the same time as my PhD, but it took several years to find a publisher.  It was a therapeutic activity, exploring issues that are extremely difficult to talk about in academic work.  There is a taboo when it comes to discussing sexual issues in the study of organisations, so the novel was a good outlet and it just grew and developed.

HP: How did you develop your plot and characters for Friends or Lovers?

Rory Ridley-Duff: The basic plot was straightforward enough – I wanted to write a novel about a woman’s journey toward self-awareness and a deeper understanding of her relationship with men.  I’ve often felt that there are many good films/novels about bad men who learn to become good when they face an extraordinary situation.  It seemed to me there were fewer portrayals of women who go through similar experiences.  I enjoyed films like Born on the Fourth of July (Tom Cruise), about a young man who gradually realises how societal pressures had predisposed him to fight in wars, and who later becomes a campaigner for peace.  I also member Rain Man (Tom Cruise / Dustin Hoffman) where a cocky young man becomes aware of his selfishness, learns to love the brother he never knew, and the role he played in his own past.  I think ‘In Her Shoes’ (Cameron Diaz) was an influence - it explored how a selfish young woman becomes a caring adult.  Friends or Lovers has a similar aim.  It peels back the superficial bullshit we call the ‘real world’ and looks at the nature of the intimate relationships that make life worth living.

HP: Did you learn anything from writing the novel?

Rory Ridley-Duff: A great deal.  At the time – in my research – I would find myself in conflict with other people over issues of gender representation (the caricaturing of men and women that affects the way they are treated during conflicts at work).  I always wondered what it would be like to explore the issue from the perspective of a woman born in the 1970s who grew up with feminist assumptions she had not thought through.  What would happen if she started to question them?  It was a bit like my own journey, but in reverse.  In the 1970s/80s, I was committed to supporting feminism, but a sexual harassment investigation I conducted at my workplace made me question my assumptions.  This novel is, in some ways, is an exploration of that experience but from the point of view of the woman who was my co-investigator.

HP: Where can we purchase Friends or Lovers?

Rory Ridley-Duff: It is available from Booktrope, a new publisher that specialises in digital books and on-demand printing.  They have an online HTML version, a Kindle version (available at Amazon), and take orders from bookstores and distributors on a print on demand basis.  It is possible to order single copies as well at or

HP: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Rory Ridley-Duff: I think the main message of the book comes in the final paragraph, and I would not want to spoil this for readers. The best hint I can give is that this is book seeks to encourage tolerance, sensitivity and forgiveness rather than hostility and prejudice.  I hope it will be regarded as an emancipatory novel – one that frees women, and benefits men, from some distinctly intolerant attitudes embedded in our culture over the last 40 years.

HP: How much of the book is realistic?

Rory Ridley-Duff: It is realistic. I’ve both experienced and studied the way sexual conflicts at work are resolved.  Anthropological research has helped me develop a deep understanding of the motivations that drive human behaviour at work, and the prejudices that pervade Human Resource Management. People can test out this realism by talking to friends and colleagues who work in human resource management.  I hope it is the realism of the novel will stay in the memories of people.  I also hope it will encourage them to question (and change) the way conflicts are both understood and managed in the workplace.

HP: Can we expect any more books from you in the future?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Yes.  I have another idea for a novel called ‘The Smiling Assassin’ about a group of think-tank researchers who become embroiled in a battle to save the soul of the social enterprise movement.  This novel explores the role of finance capital in subverting and destroying social movements that seek social justice at work.  I’ve written several chapters and friends tell me this is the most promising idea for a novel that I’ve pursued.  I’ve also written several chapters of a companion novel to Friends or Lovers that tells the story from Dave’s perspective (a different character in Friends or Lovers).

HP: Do you have any advice for writers?

Rory Ridley-Duff: Keep going, keep writing, craft your works as best you can, make sure your friends read it and that you respond to any criticisms they have.  Don’t be too quick to publish - let the manuscript mature by making many revisions (and leave time each round of revisions so you have time to reflect on each draft).  When ready, waste no time in trying to find someone to publish it, and be prepared to do so yourself if nobody else will.  With each writing project, you will improve and success – however modest and in whatever form it comes – is always satisfying.

HP: You seem to have a pretty busy schedule, what do you do when you get down time?

Rory Ridley-Duff: The summer (August) and Christmas.  I have several weeks of holiday coming up which I am looking forward to immensely.  Christmas is always great.  From the moment our extended family arrives in Yorkshire, we all switch off from work and have two weeks of food, fun and festivities.

HP: Thank you ever so for having this interview with me Rory. I know you have been very busy so it means so much more.


Books by Rory Ridley-Duff
Friends or Lovers
Emotion, Seduction and Intimacy: Alternative Perspectives on Human Behaviour
Understanding Social Enterprise: Theory and Practice

Coming Soon
The Smiling Assassin-- To read the first three chapters, click here.

Awards and Recognitions 
*In 2001 he won a DTI Smart Award for contributions to innovation in database design.
*In 2002, he won a Hallam PhD Studentship that enabled him to establish a new career as a university lecturer/researcher focussing on governance in cooperatives and social enterprises.
*Since 2009, he has been recognised by Marquis's Who's Who in the World in 2009 for his contributions to music and knowledge.  
*He became an UnLtd/HEFCE Ambassador for Social Enterpreneurship in Higher Education in 2010.

Also find Rory at:
His Website

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