The Wizard

The Wizard (Ian Brackenbury Channell) is the self-described "official Wizard of New Zealand", classified by art galleries and critics as a Living Work of Art, designer of the Post-Modern Cosmology, theorist of the Fun Revolution, founder of the Imperial British Conservative Party, role-model for Post-Feminist men, and Metaphysical Engineer”. Locals and visitors alike know him for his Cathedral Square orations.

View a set of images of The Wizard on Canterbury Stories

Ian Brackenbury Channell was born in London, England in 1932. His career path involved time as a Royal Air Force Navigator. In 1963 he obtained a B.A. Double Honours in Psychology and Sociology. After travelling in the Middle East and teaching in Teheran, he became a lecturer, and later a Teaching Fellow, in Australia.

His career as a wizard began in 1969 when he was appointed Wizard of the University of New South Wales by the Vice Chancellor and Students' Union, enabling the continuation of experimental teaching and social reform techniques. The Wizard's living body was also donated to the National Gallery of Victoria as a Living Work of Art.

In New Zealand, he began his career with an oration in Cathedral Square in 1974. His fame grew to such an extent that the Director of the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch contacted the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and arranged transfer of Living Work of Art title to Christchurch.

In 1980 the Canterbury Promotion Council appointed the Wizard official Archwizard of Canterbury. Ten years later, he was appointed Wizard of New Zealand by Prime Minister Mike Moore.

Phone battles

During 1988, The Wizard took on the "tasteless tyrants of Telecom" by repainting the new blue telephone boxes back to their traditional red colour. The battle raged for twelve days, and the Christchurch City Council even got involved - suggesting they might charge rent for the public land on which the phone boxes stood, and voting to supply red paint. Most of the red phone boxes were later sold off, but a few remain, such as the metal one in Victoria Square. Read the Wizard's account of this story. 


In September 1995, with the assistance from the Christchurch City Council, a week of activities took place celebrating 21 years of wizardry in Christchurch. There was a retrospective Living Work of Art exhibition in the city art gallery, a "hatching" from a giant egg, the construction of a large nest on top of the eleven-story University Library, and a Conclave of Wizards from Australia and various parts of New Zealand.

Some of the activities and issues associated with The Wizard:

  • Avoiding the filling out of census forms
  • Rain dances
  • Casting spells
  • The formation of Alf's Imperial Army
  • He proposed an alternative cosmology - the Upside-Down World, with Antarctica and South at the top of the map, and the Inside-Out Universe, which inverts all dimensions and measurements
  • The Wizardmobile, constructed from the front halves of two Volkswagen Beetles

More about The Wizard


Print this page