Lance Stewart is an award-winning lighting designer, actor, inventor and playwright. He has been active in the IES since 1990 as a member, committee member, lighting lecturer, keynote conference speaker and MC. His company, Creative Lighting, is based in Queensland Australia.

Coinciding with Vivid in Sydney, a city in which my first lighting business 42 years ago went under the unfortunately-named ‘ISIS’ (eek!), Sparc 2015 was held in a temporary venue at Glebe Island while the real Exhibition Centre had snuck off in the middle of the night to be re-erected elsewhere.

As a member of ‘Team Lux’ (I know this because Lux’s Doug Galvin kindly gave me a rugby jumper that says so), I prowled the stands in the only building that hadn’t managed to escape the island before I arrived, networked with illuminati and snake oil salesmen alike, and gave an impromptu interview that almost didn’t happen due to crappy lighting conditions. Which is even more ironic given that Sparc’s roof had seemingly nicked off too, with the remaining translucent panels letting sufficient sunshine in to drown out any lighting displays that hadn’t the foresight to bring their own roof. They must have been overjoyed.

As for Sparc’s location on Glebe Island – brilliant! Only a crow’s fly from the CBD, which is great if you are a crow or some sort of meta-human with wings. Otherwise – as NDY’s Steve Brown discovered – a taxi driver might to try to drop you off on a nearby cliff. Or charge you more than an airfare to actually reach the island-isolated venue.

Some stands were, dare I say it, stand-outs: Xicato attracted attention from the get-go; Tridonic had a gimmick that used scene control from QR code stickers which needed to be lit in order to work (which made me chuckle) and redeemed themselves with ConnecDim ably demonstrated by my best bro and Kiwi controls guru Steve Cranney;

We-Ef had their usual high standard stand with Raylinc’s Mark Hoppe in fine form; Beacon Lighting’s presence raised eyebrows; and the Illuminating Engineering Society were there as always to promote the art and science of lighting, albeit from a stand located at the back. There were others of course, though not as many as you might think – or hope.

But my favourite was a stand that comprised an uplight, a sign and a chair. I couldn’t help but think of my last absurdist play, which led me to think that perhaps there was more to this than met the eye. Who was that slumped man, Samuel Beckett perhaps?

Behind the scenes, hamsters running flat on a wheel that turned a generator that powered an uplight: a brilliant working demonstration of the ultimate in sustainable lighting featuring dimming to zero whenever a hamster dropped dead from exhaustion?”

And why would anyone stump up all that money to fly to Sydney and exhibit, only to sit with their back to the audience in a minimalist set with a solitary light, unless it was all a cunning plan, a theatre installation loaded with subtexts, themes, and perhaps something completely unexpected, like –  I don’t know – hamsters? Behind the scenes, hamsters running flat on a wheel that turned a generator that powered an uplight: a brilliant working demonstration of the ultimate in sustainable lighting featuring dimming to zero whenever a hamster dropped dead from exhaustion? (‘Oi! That bloody light’s gone out again. Be a dear and see if there’s a spare hamster in the cupboard would you?’)

Alas, the sole occupant of the stand seemed oblivious to my whimsy and, as I saw no evidence of rodents in servitude and he-who-manned-the-stand had only slumped further into his chair, I decided against waking him to ask where he’d hidden his hamsters and what it was all about and instead moved on, feeling somewhat less than enlightened.

There were the usual suspects at Sparc, and by that I mean no disrespect: some of the brightest lights in our game were milling about or manning stands and the benefits of getting them all in one place for networking and education are laudable anywhere – even in a badly built semi-permanent tent at the end of a long road on an island close to everything yet paradoxically isolated in the middle of nowhere.

Someone said Sparc was like a miniature Light Fair, with about half the exhibits coming from the land of 10,000 manufacturers. Presumably these were not those same companies who vie for our lighting spend by sending us regular and enthusiastic emails that exhort us to buy, buy, buy! ‘Friend Lance, glad to know you are in the market for lighting,’ ‘New best-selling UL CE product, cheapest high bay ever,’ and ‘Hot light no driver need.’ (Remind me to get a better spam filter – the one I’ve got can’t tell the difference between an email about a knock-off, glare-city high bay from one that’s about an original, sublime, Erco RGBWW.)

Thankfully there were lighting professionals to network with, because otherwise Sparc didn’t set off any fireworks for me. No celebrations of the UN Year of Light, no revolutions, few revelations, and a paucity of exciting innovations.

Not even a hidden hamster, more’s the pity.

Splutter. Fizzle.