Wizard of New Zealand

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The Wizard of New Zealand, QSM (born Ian Brackenbury Channell, 4 December 1932 in London) is an English-born New Zealand educator, comedian, magician and politician, who has become something of a national icon of New Zealand.[citation needed]


Life and career

Ian Brackenbury Channell was born on 4 December 1932 in London. In 1951-53 he served in the Royal Air Force as a pilot-officer navigator 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 an astonishing revitalisation of the university referred to in the Sydney Morning Herald as "the university that swings".

His left-wing 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 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 license, social security ID, passport and other important documents to lapse so that he could become a fictional character... a radical new conceptual art form. 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. Unfortunately whilst on tour in Melbourne in 1970 WUS in Australia was taken over by political extremists who cut him off without any explanation or communication.

Picking himself up, and 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 (on extended loan). 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 national socialism.

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