The new minds behind off-Hindley Street venue Ancient World are aware of how problematic the late-night scene can be. Because of this, they're making your experience their top priority.
Ancient World’s new owners are making your safety their prerogative
On Sunday last week, Ancient World’s new owners did something nightclubs traditionally don’t do.
Zander Hunt, Chelsea Zerna and Hugh Scobie opened up a discussion, via the venue’s Facebook page, for patrons to speak about whether they have ever felt “unsafe” at their bar.
116a Hindley Street, Adelaide 5000
Fri—Sat: 7pm ’til 2am
Ancient World also operates for gigs and special events.
Many in Adelaide’s going-out community see Ancient World as a refuge from the debauchery of Hindley Street.
It’s located off the main clubbing strip, down an alley, in a basement, and is known as a place that celebrates the city’s weird and wonderful creative scene.
Its inclusive nature led to a mixed-bag of programming, spanning DJ nights, live music, flamboyant drag shows and weekly karaoke.
But the venue has, in recent years, found itself at the centre of rumours regarding the safety and level of service offered to patrons.
For Chelsea, Hugh and Zander, who became the new owners of the venue in January, this has been challenging to overcome.
They took on the business with the aim of making the most of the underground space, and they hope to now offer assurance to their patrons that there is freedom to express yourself without fear of harassment or discrimination.
“It can be a hub for people who want to express themselves visually in a different way, or emotionally, or if they want to try new things by experiencing different types of music or meet different people from all walks of life,” Chelsea tells CityMag.
“I’ve had a lot of people say that they’ve been excited and felt safer having a female behind the bar, and having someone who understands the trials and tribulations and sometimes the fear of being a woman in a nightclub. And then, with understanding that fear and understanding vulnerability, being able to approach that in a more sensitive manner.”
Chelsea first became acquainted with Ancient World in 2015. While pursuing a career in the arts, she also pulled pints at another Hindley Street haunt, Supermild. When that venue closed she was poached by the original owners of Ancient World, David Apps and Brad Cameron.
“Brad actually offered me a job here and I got to know the community from this side of the bar,” Chelsea says.
Hugh’s first interactions with the venue were as a promoter and DJ in 2017 while organising heavy techno club nights under the Subvert label.
He says he found his “home” as a performer at Ancient World. Now, at the helm of the business, he wants to foster that feeling for other people.
“We want to bring new people in here so there’s continual growth,” he says.
Zander says he never felt totally comfortable going to other nightclubs, and says Ancient World for him was where he could let his hair down.
He started working behind the bar in 2013 and ended up forming a strong friendship with the prior owners, Brad and Dave.
Despite working in Estonia for a couple of years, and returning to Adelaide due to COVID-19, Zander says he couldn’t resist the pull of the venue, which acts as a petri dish for the many and varied creative communities in the CBD.
– Zander Hunt
As a long-time enthusiast of the venue who now owns a third of the business, Zander’s keen on keeping it nimble.
“We want the space to be healthy and active, with a continuing variety of events [and] with different music,” Zander says.
The trio want to continue taking Ancient World in the direction it was founded on, but push its boundaries.
Chelsea is currently toying with the idea of a female-led punk night and other community-driven events, such as stand-up comedy.
Ancient World’s evolution isn’t restricted to the live acts it presents, and after taking the reins at the beginning of the year, the trio realised it needed a new lick of paint. Artists who painted the original murals years ago were invited back and lay down a fresh coat.
“It’s a group of people who are a bit more integral to running the bar and connected to each other,” Hugh adds, “so it was a really nice group project.”
For any venue that aims to service niche scenes, a willingness to listen is crucial, says Chelsea. “You really need to come in very sensitively and with your eyes wide open.”
Under its original ownership group, Ancient World was known for its indiscriminate willingness to let any band play there. This is an ethos all three new owners want to revive – and expand on.
Hugh has already had punters ask about how they can be part of the Ancient World story.
“We’ve had lots of people approaching us and asking us to do shows. Lots of people coming into the bar,” Hugh says.
“But if there’s a group of friends who are really passionate about their musical project, or whatever it is, I think we want to carry that legacy onwards and say, ‘This is a space where you can experiment with whatever’ – whether it’s music or performance, or DJing, or visual arts.
“[We want to] be open to people that have interesting ideas and need space to exhibit them or try them out.”