Expelliarmus! Christchurch drives out their wizard


New Zealand loses its official wizard. Almost 40 years after the city of Christchurch asked its wizard to stay, the council told the charismatic wizard that he had to go.

The 88-year-old wizard, also known as Ian Brackenbury Channell, has been a popular tourist attraction for more than three decades, and with his flowing beard, lank hair, and long, black robe and pointed shape, he speaks to the downtown crowds to hat.

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Nothing was off-limits to the modern day Merlin, from scourging politicians to successfully running a campaign to stop “an attack on the soul of the city” when it was announced that the red public payphones would be painted blue.

He was asked to cast spells to influence the outcome of events such as major rugby matches and to be transported to Australia to perform a rain dance.

“It is a difficult decision to end this contract,” said Lynn McClelland, deputy chief executive of Christchurch City Council.

“The Council is grateful for the valuable and special contribution The Wizard has made to the cultural life of our city, and it will forever be part of our history.”

But McClelland said wizardry no longer fits the “advertising landscape” of the South Island’s largest city, and new programs “will increasingly reflect our diverse communities and present a vibrant, diverse, modern city.”


British-born Channell, a former Royal Air Force aviator and a graduate of the University of Leeds with a double degree in psychology and sociology, arrived in Christchurch in 1974.

The council’s first reaction, when he began his public speech, was to try to have him arrested, but he proved so popular that ten years later, when the council threatened to play a rugby match after a failed spell, to leave him to go.

“This was a welcome change in the city council’s stance after years of ill-hidden hostility,” Channell said.

The council named him “Wizard of Christchurch”, the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Association made him “an authentic living work of art” and in 1990 Prime Minister Mike Moore named him the official “Wizard of New Zealand”.

Since 1998, the wizard has received NZ $ 16,000 (R166,771) annually from the council “to perform magic and other wizard-like services,” and said he was not happy about being sidelined.

“They are a bunch of bureaucrats with no imaginations,” he told Stuff’s news website.

“They don’t think of ways to promote Christchurch abroad. You are not taking advantage of my worldwide fame. I’m disappointed they didn’t use The Wizard as part of promoting Christchurch.

“I don’t like being canceled.”

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