New Zealand Won't Commit on Official Wizard's Successor

For $10K a year, 87-year-old tries to deliver fun, sometimes with an edge
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2020 7:10 PM CDT
New Zealand Won't Commit on Official Wizard's Successor
The Wizard of New Zealand visits a floral tribute in Christchurch in 2019 for the victims of the mosque shootings.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Now that he's 87, Ian Brackenbury Channell has stepped back from his job a bit. Not even the official wizard of the New Zealand city of Christchurch can go on forever, so he's looking for someone to eventually take his staff. The job description is pretty clear—"perform acts of wizardry"—for the $10,000-a-year position, funded by the city council. More specifically, the British native explains the job as being a bit of a provocateur, CNN reports, tweaking the system while delivering a net increase in the amount of fun in Christchurch. "Every day the world gets more serious," Channell said, "so fun is the most powerful thing in the world right now." He's not big on a female successor, thinking women are better suited to being fairies. Channell has a candidate: Ari Freeman, 39, who's been his apprentice for 6 years while teaching guitar and being in a psychedelic funk band on the side.

Channel paid a price for his calling; he said he lost friends when he became a wizard, and his wife moved out. "She's still furious," he said. The city council wasn't impressed, either, refusing to give him permission to speak in Cathedral Square, where he dressed as various characters after moving to the city in 1974. He began messing with the council, speaking French in the square, and raised his profile. The city hired him after Prime Minister Mike Moore wrote in 1990, asking him to help out as wizard, per CNN. "No doubt there will be implications in the area of spells, blessings, curses, and other supernatural matters that are beyond the competence of mere Prime Ministers," Moore wrote. In Christchurch, Channel found a "romantic dream" whose center still includes gothic buildings damaged by a 2011 earthquake, unlikely to be changed by economic development. The city hasn't said whether Freeman will have the job next. "I want the wizard phenomenon to continue," he said, adding, "Like a band needs a guitar player—I'll be that guitar player." (Read more wizard stories.)

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