Long before the Lord of the Rings film franchise made wizards and hobbits part of New Zealand’s international image and tourism industry, there was Channell.
Starting out as a public performer in the late 1970s, he was met with both interest and protest. The New Zealand Art Gallery Directors Association dubbed him a “living work of art.” His title became official when then-prime minister Mike Moore in 1990 expressed concern that Channell’s wizardry was not available “at the disposal of the entire nation” — and bestowed upon him his elaborate title.
Since then years, he has been tasked with providing “acts of wizardry” to the city, with a large pointy black hat, black robe, long gray beard and wooden cane. He has addressed plaza crowds about a campaign to invert the world map to have New Zealand “in its rightful place” at the top. He has pontificated on the ideas of well-known philosophers in city squares. He has performed rain dances during droughts.
He claims to have a New Zealand driver's license registered under the name Wizard, The.
A cached version of his website — published in an unusual roman typeface — lists under the header “Ideas,” webpages with titles including “Love marriage and the consumer society”; “Imperial British Conservative Party”; “Is science really rational?” and “Physical Reality Through the Internet and Relativity Theory.”
Under an “Adventures” header, he lists webpages including one about the hazards of casting spells for rugby games, and a page called “Fear and loathing in Christchurch City Council.” He also makes podcasts and has published at least two e-books.
Queen Elizabeth II awarded him a Queen’s Service Medal during her 2009 birthday honors.
In recent years, he has come under criticism for controversial remarks about women.
According to a council spokesperson, the city is changing the direction of its tourism and promotional program to “showcase a vibrant, diverse, modern city,” the Guardian reported. The council wished him goodbye with a letter thanking him for his service.
“It’s just they don’t like me because they are boring old bureaucrats and everyone likes me and no one likes them,’’ he said, the newspaper reported.
I have been the living Icon of Christchurch since the 1970s,” Chanell said to The Post. “Unfortunately the City Council are rather parochial and over the yearshave become increasingly puritanical.“