Christchurch Wizard Let Go

The only publicly employed wizard in the world will no longer receive a paycheck after this year. The Wizard of Christchurch, in New Zealand, has been told by the city council that they will stop paying him a $NZ16 000 salary. The Wizard, whose real name is Ian Brackenbury Channell, has been paid the small salary since 1998. However, he has been doing his wizardly performance for much longer.

Mr. Channell, originally from England, started to develop a wizard persona while teaching at the University of New South Wales in Sydney in the late 1960s. He moved to Christchurch in 1972 and continued to perform as The Wizard, frequently speaking to the public from atop a ladder in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square, dressed in wizard’s hat and gown, with a long beard and a staff.

The Wizard in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand
The Wizard in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand (source)

Over the years, various government officials have embraced the Wizard as something of a tourist attraction in the heart of the city. His payment started in recognition of the promotional value of his work, and there have been frequent tongue-in-cheek references to his work in the magical realm. In 1990, the Prime Minister of New Zealand suggested that the Wizard extend his magical services to the rest of the country.

At 88, Mr. Channell may not be old for a wizard, but he is well past the retirement age for most workers. He is unhappy about the council’s decision, but he claims he will not put a curse on them, and although he will not be paid, he will continue talking to tourists as The Wizard.

Sources: bbc.com, nytimes.com, theguardian.com, stuff.co.nz

For source links, see the article on ESLNewsStories.com

Worksheet with activities

Audio

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Useful Language

  • Wizard (n) - a person with magical powers
  • Let go (phr. v) - to make someone leave a job
  • Persona (n) - the personality that someone has that is different from their real or private character
  • Atop (prep) - on top of
  • Ladder (n) - a piece of equipment for climbing up and down
  • Gown (n) - a long loose piece of clothing
  • Staff (n) - a long stick used to help with walking or fighting
  • Tongue-in-cheek (adj) - not serious
  • Realm (n) - an area of knowledge or activity
  • Curse (n) - magical words that are said to give someone trouble

Discussion

Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. Are there any unusual characters around your city? What makes them interesting or recognizable?
  2. Have you ever been let go from a job? What happened?
  3. Do you believe in magic? What is magic?
  4. If someone in your culture claimed to have magical powers, how would they be treated?
  5. How would you feel if someone put a curse on you? Would you be worried?
  6. Is your hometown a tourist destination? Why do tourists visit or not visit there?
  7. How can a place attract more tourists? What methods can increase tourism?
  8. What age do people generally retire in your country? What age would be good to retire, in your opinion?
  9. How do retired people live in your country? Do they have to survive off savings?
  10. Do you have a public persona that is different from your private persona? What’s different about the public you and the private you?