It is a love story like no other. Alice Flett and the Wizard of Christchurch have been together for nearly 50 years. Next year will mark 30 years since they were engaged, but the fiancées are no nearer to tying the knot. Frank Film asks why.
Alice Flett and the Wizard became engaged in 1992 at Christchurch’s first Festival of Romance, but according to the Wiz, marriage itself is not that romantic.
“It’s not romantic being a wife or husband, but it is very romantic being a fiancée. I love you, I love you, all that stuff – I don’t like that. It’s shallow and doesn’t mean much and they divorce all the time. I cannot say I love Alice so I have to show my love by actually doing things.”
They first met at Melbourne University in 1969. Even then, in Channell’s first year as a resident Wizard, he was “doing things”. TV clips show him leaping skyward in a long robe, haranguing students on campus. Flett recalls seeing a photograph of him on the front page of the paper, “bouncing around on a pogo stick in a fur coat and bowler hat”.
A native Melburnian, Flett was a diligent student and head girl at a Catholic school (she is now a respected classicist and art historian). She loved school, she says, “I was a good girl.”
She and the Wizard were introduced in 1970.
“I was curious,” she says. “He was interesting to talk to.”
“She just moved in quietly,” explains the Wizard.
A subtle process?
But not altogether sanctioned. Some were not impressed, says Flett, at the idea of a 19-year-old young woman teaming up with a man then twice her age (the Wizard will be 90 next year).
“But they either got used to it or… I didn’t particularly care what they thought anyway.”
In 1974, unsettled in Melbourne, the English-born Wizard set his sight on Christchurch, in particular Cathedral Square, which became an unofficial Speakers Corner.
It was here, with a customised passport in the name of The Wizard of New Zealand, that he staked out his space as an officially designated “living work of art”, railing against authority, feminism and of course religion.
“He loved it best when he was baited by some rabid evangelical,” recalls Flett.
But his own apparent powers could be unnerving.
When Waimate was seeking relief from a long period of drought, they asked the Wizard to do a rain dance. He did; it rained. When Auckland was suffering a water shortage, he danced again. Again, it rained.
“Then he did one in Tamworth in New South Wales where there’d been a terrible drought,” recalls Flett. “He did his thing and they sloshed water over him from every direction. He beat his drum – and then it rained. He frightened the life out of himself and said he wouldn’t do it anymore.”
Today he still waxes prophetically, if politically incorrectly, outside the Arts Centre – “The Gothic Wizard outside the Gothic Arts Centre! What more could you ask than that?”
Shoulder to shoulder in their Christchurch garden, he and Flett are comfortable, companionable, if still a little bemused by each other.
“We’ve had arguments,” says Flett. “But he does still surprise me after all these years, which is probably a good thing.”
Is there going to be a wedding?
“Everyone asks that – I don’t know whether there will be a wedding. I’d had hopes.”
While a wedding ring is unlikely, a recording saying “I love you Alice” is on the Wizard’s to-do list.
“So she can play it to herself when I’m gone. Presumably I’m going to go before she does.”
*Made with the support of NZ on Air*