The Wizard of New Zealand QSM (born Ian Brackenbury Channell; 4 December 1932) is a New Zealand educator, comedian, magician and politician.
Life and career
Ian Brackenbury Channell was born on 4 December 1932 in London. Educated at Framlingham College, in 1951–53 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. Shortly afterwards, 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". The result was a revitalisation of the university referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald as "the university that swings".
His head of department, convinced he was mad, dismissed him without consultation for insufficient progress in his thesis in the sociology of art. The Vice Chancellor, Rupert Myers offered to do all he could and in 1969 Channell, who wanted to stay on campus and continue his social experiments, was able to persuade the VC to appoint him official University Wizard with a small honorarium paid jointly by the University Administration and the Student Union. He began to experiment with his own identity and allowed his driving licence, social security ID, passport and other important documents to lapse. After travelling to the World University Service headquarters in Geneva he received their backing to travel round Australian universities to promote his new revitalisation movement.
In a condition of considerable financial hardship, he was able to persuade 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 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 organized battles on campus. He founded the Imperial British Conservative Party to provide a counterbalance to international capitalism and the various forms of Nazism.
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 been speaking there at lunchtimes in the summer months ever since and soon featured in guide books.
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 Wizard's 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.
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 had been providing his services free until recently, when the Christchurch City Council granted him a modest annual honorarium. The Wizard has received financial support from his partner, Alice Flett.
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.
When not actively performing, the Wizard studies the works of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, sociologist Talcott Parsons, physicist Ilya Prigogine, systems analyst Erich Jantsch and biologist Rupert Sheldrake.
After the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake the Wizard planned to retire and leave Christchurch for good, saying that the town he loved had gone and that it was the end of an era. After it was announced by CERA and the Anglican bishop that the remains of Christchurch Cathedral would be demolished, the Wizard returned to Christchurch to oppose the demolition. The Wizard continues to speak on the need to preserve Christchurch's heritage buildings.
The Wizard was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in the 2009 Birthday Honours.
The Wizard performed in Cathedral Square on weekdays from 1–2pm from November to Easter. He now spends a lot of his time in Oamaru, which has become famous for the artists and craftspeople who have moved there in recent years. 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.
In 1998, an autobiography titled My Life as a Miracle was published.
The Wizard produced an upside-down map using the Hobo–Dyer projection which placed New Zealand and Australia top-centre.
The Wizard of New Zealand QSM, directed by Grant John Neville 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.
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 and Best Film about Real People at the Official Best of Fest 2010.