The Wizard of New Zealand

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The Wizard of New Zealand
The Wizard speaking in Cathedral Square in December 2006
Birth nameIan Brackenbury Channell
Born (1932-12-04) 4 December 1932 (age 87)
London, England
NationalityNew Zealand, British
EducationFramlingham College
Bromley Grammar School for Boys
Alma materUniversity of Leeds
Partner(s)Alice Flett[1]

The Wizard of New Zealand QSM (born Ian Brackenbury Channell; 4 December 1932) is a New Zealand educator, comedian, magician and politician. He is also known by his shorter name, The Wizard.

Life and career[edit]


The Wizard was born Ian Brackenbury Channell on 4 December 1932 in London, England. Educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk and from 1945 to 1951 at Bromley Grammar School for Boys, now Ravensbourne School. From 1951 to 1953 he served in the Royal Air Force as an airman and in 1963 he graduated from the University of Leeds with a double honours degree in psychology and sociology; as a student at Leeds he was a member of the institution's University Challenge team.[2]


Shortly after his graduation, he was recruited by the University of Western Australia Adult Education Board to run their community arts programme. In 1967 he joined the teaching staff of the newly opened School of Sociology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

During the student upheavals, which began at this time, he created a direct action reform movement called Alf (Action for Love and Freedom) and implemented this with what he announced to be "The Fun Revolution".

In a condition of considerable financial hardship, he was able to persuade the Melbourne University Union Activities Department to appoint him their unpaid "Cosmologer, Living Work of Art and Shaman". The vice-chancellor gave him the use of the Old Pathology Lecture Theatre for his classes in synthetic cosmology and the director of the National Gallery of Victoria accepted the offer of his live body as a living work of art. At this time, shocked when the student pacifist society sent money to the Viet Cong, he founded Alf's Imperial Army devoted to sensational but non-violent warfare and regularly organised battles on campus. He founded the Imperial British Conservative Party to provide a counterbalance to international capitalism and the various forms of Nazism.

New Zealand[edit]

In 1974 the Wizard migrated to Christchurch in New Zealand and began to speak on a ladder in Cathedral Square. The city council attempted to have him arrested but he became so popular that they made the square a public speaking area. Wearing his costume as a false prophet of the Church of England, or his wizard's pointy hat, he has spoken there at lunchtimes in the summer months.[citation needed]

The Wizard in December 2012

He confronted Telecom over the colour of public telephone boxes, played for the local rugby team, heckled Christian evangelist Ray Comfort, evaded the compulsory census and performed rain dances in Canterbury, Auckland and the Australian outback.

With the help of the mayor, Vicki Buck, the city of Christchurch hosted a wizards' conclave in 1995 when visiting colleagues gathered to help build a wizard's nest on top of the university library tower, to witness the New Zealand Wizard hatching from a giant egg in the city art gallery, sky diving whilst chanting a spell for a major rugby match and performing various rituals round the city. Soon afterwards, accompanied by 42 assistant wizards, he came down by gondola from the Port Hills with tablets bearing the address of his new website.[citation needed]

In 1982 the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Association issued a statement that in their opinion The Wizard was an authentic living work of art and the city council appointed him "Wizard of Christchurch". In 1990 the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mike Moore, an old friend, appointed him the official "Wizard of New Zealand".

He provided his services free until[when?] the Christchurch City Council granted him a modest annual honorarium. The Wizard has received financial support from his partner, Alice Flett.[3]

On 8 September 2003 The Wizard's large wooden house was destroyed by a fire, which Christchurch police treated as arson. The Wizard, his partner and two boarders were lucky to escape with their lives and The Wizard's extensive book and video collections were destroyed. The "Wizardmobile", constructed from the front halves of two VW Beetles, was also attacked and damaged.

After the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, The Wizard planned to retire and permanently leave Christchurch, saying that the town he loved had gone and that it was the end of an era.[4] After it was announced by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and the Anglican bishop that the remains of Christchurch Cathedral would be demolished, The Wizard returned to Christchurch to oppose the demolition.[5] The Wizard continues to speak on the need to preserve Christchurch's heritage buildings.

Since 2014, Ari Freeman has been The Wizard's apprentice.[1]

The Wizard was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in the 2009 Queen's Birthday Honours, for service to the community.[6]

The Wizard in front of Christchurch Cathedral in January 2007

Public speaking[edit]

The Wizard performed in Cathedral Square on weekdays from 1–2pm from November to Easter. He now spends a significant amount of his time in Oamaru, which is famous for being a centre for arts and craftsmanship. He was present at the official re-opening of Oamaru Airport on 6 August 2006, and where he claimed to have cast a successful spell to disperse the fog that was preventing the first flight from landing.[7]


In 1998, an autobiography titled My Life as a Miracle was published.[8]


The Wizard produced an upside-down map using the Hobo–Dyer projection which placed New Zealand and Australia top-centre.[9][10]


The Wizard of New Zealand QSM, directed by Grant John Neville[11] and Director of Photography Karlos Filipov, is an award-winning documentary that follows the life of the first man in the modern world to be appointed by a government as an official Wizard. The documentary includes interviews with The Wizard, Mike Moore and many others.[12]

The Wizard explores the Wizard's views that women cause wars through their shopping habits and that governments with monarchies are more stable, and explores the life of The Wizard of New Zealand.

The film was awarded Best Short Documentary at the Beijing International Film Festival 2010,[13] and Best Film about Real People at the Official Best of Fest 2010.[14][15]

The Wizard and the Commodore – Chathams Islands/New Zealand, directed by Samuel A. Miller[16] follows The Wizard of New Zealand on a trip to the Chatham Islands, 600 miles off the Coast of New Zealand. The film premiered at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on 29 March 2018.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Hollingsworth, Julia (8 August 2020). "This New Zealand man gets paid $10,000 a year to be a city's official wizard".
  2. ^ Granada TV's "University Challenge" 1962/3 on YouTube
  3. ^ "NZ wizard seeks charms of normal life". BBC News. London: BBC. 24 August 2002. Retrieved 23 October 2015. But even wizards must eat. This one has long been supported by his Australian fiancée, Alice Flett.
  4. ^ Ensor, Blair (24 February 2011). "Damaged city too much for Wizard". The Marlborough Express. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  5. ^ Gates, Charlie (10 March 2012). "Wizard in 'save cathedral' bid". The Press. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  6. ^ "The Queen's Birthday Honours 2009" (PDF). New Zealand Gazette (89): 1965–1968. 17 June 2009.
  7. ^ Oamaru back on the flight radar Archived video footage accompanying news item by TVNZ, 6 August 2006, TV ONE New Zealand
  8. ^ My Life as a Miracle Canterbury University Press, November 1998 (ISBN 0-908812-73-6)
  9. ^ "Wizard says goodbye to Christchurch". 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  10. ^ "NZ wizard seeks charms of normal life". BBC News. London: BBC. 24 August 2002. Retrieved 15 February 2012. He is best known for his rain dances and upside down map, which puts New Zealand at the top of the world.
  11. ^ "Grant Neville – IMDb".
  12. ^ "The Wizard of New Zealand QSM". Archived from the original on 16 November 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Best Short Documentary".
  14. ^ "The Official Best of Fest Award Winners, October 2010". Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  15. ^ Archived 25 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Samuel Miller – IMDb".

External links[edit]