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Beacons of Light: Martin Lupton

Beacons of Light: Martin Lupton

May 2021

DW Windsor is powered by people with a shared passion for light, committed to delivering outstanding lighting solutions. To celebrate those who share our passion, we’ve sought out individuals who are making a positive impact on our community and shining a light on our industry. Through this series of interviews, we are highlighting a number of unique and inspiring people who are leading the way as Beacons of Light.

An Interview with Martin Lupton

Martin Lupton is the co-founder of Light Collective, which he runs alongside fellow co-founder Sharon Stammers. Light Collective is a design project practice that also delivers events and campaigns across the lighting industry. He has played an integral role in the delivery and growth of the worldwide Women In Lighting campaign. His innovative approach, people-centric focus, and ability to energise and enthuse others, significantly increased the volume of design work awarded to the firm.

We met with Martin to discuss his history, his passions, and his plans for the future.


When did you first become interested in lighting? Have you always wanted to work in the industry, or did you have other careers in mind too?

In my younger days, I was a roadie with a mobile DJ and we worked on the lighting for a fashion show and a few bands. I would love to say that this sparked my love for light but it's actually a lot more mundane!  I did a degree in Building Services Engineering at Liverpool University and when it finished, I had the opportunity to complete a PhD in lighting at the School of Architecture. This was when I first truly discovered lighting and how much I enjoyed it more than my previous work in Building Services Engineering.

Martin Lupton headshot

Martin Lupton

Martin has more than 25 years in design-focused careers, he brings a wealth of experience to everything he does. Before starting Light Collective, Martin was a director at one of the UK’s largest architecture led design practices. 

Lighting has the power to transform a space; whether that’s the interior of a restaurant, a public street or the façade of a building. The transformative nature of light and the impact it can have has always really inspired me. Lighting is an amazing visual medium that delivers incredible impact and change that really can affect the people within that space or place.

As for other careers that I considered, before university, I was also interested in architecture but I loved the science and technical side of things as well as the visual and artistic, so lighting was a much better home for me in the end.

What has been your lightbulb moment during your career?

It was definitely when I realised that light was both a science and an art. Light is a visual medium and creates a bridge between these two disciplines. The great thing is that the bridge is really flexible - you can lean more towards the science in one project and then more towards art in another one. This offers amazing scope and makes light an incredible design tool.

I have very strong memories of two specific presentations that particularly inspired me early in my career. One was at a CIBSE National Lighting Conference, by Professor Malcolm Parry from the Welsh School of Architecture. He discussed the role that light plays in architecture, showcasing the approach of architects like Louis Kahn. His presentation was incredibly visual with hundreds of images of buildings and light. I remember he even showed a picture of a washing line in Venice, hung between the narrow buildings, with light diffused between the layers of fabric. This sounds so simple, yet it encapsulated so much and was such a powerful metaphor for the role of light in our everyday life and the importance of observing the light around us.

The second talk that made a big impact was by the late Jonathan Speirs. It was an SLL talk, not long after Speirs Major had completed the Millennium Bridge project in Newcastle Upon Tyne. It was an incredible project, and for me, one of the first deliberate and well-considered uses of dynamic coloured light in an urban environment that I had seen. He presented the project in such a humble way, discussing the importance of the people in the project and the role of the lighting designer. Whilst it was an incredibly visual object, it remained a human project at its heart.

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The Venice washing line

What is one of your biggest achievements to date?

It is difficult to choose, as I am proud of lots of things that I have achieved. If I had to pinpoint something, it would be starting the Women in Lighting project with Sharon Stammers. We have seen the community grow and develop so much over the last two years. We are extremely proud of everyone who has engaged with the project and we believe we have tackled really important subjects around equality and equity in a positive way. The project has been embraced so widely; occasionally we receive an email from someone across the globe to acknowledge the impact the Women In Lighting project is having on them and those are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

"I’m fascinated by how people react to light and how it impacts on humans from both a biological and health perspective."

How did the excellent WIL initiative come about?

It actually sprung from a mistake that we had made. We were doing a project called ‘The Perfect Light’. The project was to create films with lighting designers about the perfect light. During a screening in New York, one of the audience members asked why there were hardly any women in the films. She was right – 23 designers had participated, with 19 men and 4 women. We had just shown unconscious bias.

We wondered if we were alone in this, so we looked around. Conference speakers, award juries, editorial teams and beyond, across the industry, the visible representation of the industry was massively skewed towards males. We wanted to do something about it and the Women In Lighting project was born.

This balance is not something that is unusual in construction, and in fact, we have found that lighting is a pretty well-balanced industry - at least 50/50 and potentially heading towards more female designers. The issue was that the majority of the role models were male and that is what we set out to change with the Women in Lighting project - we wanted to create a platform to showcase the diversity that already existed.

That audience member who made us stop and think was Francesca Bastianini. She is now the American Ambassador for WIL. We thank Francesca for making us accountable, and in turn, helping us to help make the industry acknowledge the issue. 

What is your vision for the WIL community over the next few years?

We want to keep growing and become even more active. International Women’s Day is a very important date in our calendar. WIL has a strong global presence with many ambassadors from across the world. 

We’re also recently launched the WIL Awards, which is designed to specifically highlight the achievements of the WIL community and supports. The response so far has been overwhelming.

We will continue to hold events like these to raise awareness within our industry and beyond. We are here to stay – the movement has been so positive; we want to build momentum and inspire even more people, so we plan on building on what has already been achieved.

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Light Collective worked with darc media to create the darc awards
(Image by Gavriilux, lighting installation Light4 Cundall)

Can you tell us about Light Collective’s key ethos and passions?

Initially, we started Light Collective as a conventional design practice, but we soon discovered that we had a talent for engaging people in our activities. It quickly evolved into a diverse consultancy focusing on a social and engaged approach to design. 

Now, at Light Collective, we like to focus on people and community. We believe people are central to light. Everyone has an opinion, as light is incredibly subjective, and you don’t need to be a professional to have an opinion on light. You only have to walk around a light festival to see the reaction to light; it's amazing and the emotions it gains are inspiring. This is what makes light and lighting such a great field. So, our key ethos would be that we always think about the people and how light touches humans in every project we approach.

This role within communities from a design perspective has also led us towards community-based activities within the industry. As we are lighting designers, we feel like we can understand how events for lighting should be developed and how the lighting design community can come together to achieve goals or discuss key issues. We get a lot of pride and satisfaction from creating events and initiatives for our own community.

How did it feel to win ‘Lux Person of the Year’ in 2019 and LIT 2020 Spotlight prize?

One word – amazing!  It was incredible to get such a high level of recognition. It almost felt fraudulent; although we put the foundation blocks down, it was the lighting community that built WIL into what it is today. We simply got the project started and we feel like the award was for everyone who has been involved in the project so far.

It was also incredibly flattering and in some ways reassuring. Our aim was to make a difference and get recognition for Women in Lighting by celebrating role models. In many ways by the project winning these awards, it’s an acknowledgement that we are achieving our aim.

Who would be a dream client for you? Or if you could light anywhere in the world where would it be?

At Light Collective we have a ‘big ideas’ list - it’s a list of ideas for a project that we want to do or things we want to create. We are really lucky that we occasionally get a chance to pitch ideas from this list to people and so, you could say, much of our work is almost self-commissioned!

One of our big ideas, that we acknowledge is definitely more likely to stay a dream, is something we call “The House of Light”. This would be us creating a house of light in a derelict building in a rural location. Within this house we’d encapsulate light art installations from collaborators, create spaces that blend light and architecture and have a curated 24-hour cycle of light and dark where people could come to experience the inspirational effects of light and the night sky. It would definitely be a dream to make it a reality, or indeed any of the big ideas off the list.

"Lighting is subjective and there are many different routes through which one can access the lighting industry but the one thing that always seems to connect the successful people I see is a passion for light and what they do"

How have the changes in the world over the past 12 months, affected you?

I imagine it is much the same as everyone else. Although we have had a virtual office for over 10 years which started because we travelled so much, we didn’t need a physical space, so that hasn’t changed. In fact, in some ways, we now wish we had an office so that we could meet up with others if there was an opportunity.

The lack of travel is a really big difference. We had a really busy 2020 planned with meetings and events all over the world and they obviously didn’t take place. It was a massive change in plans, which has been depressing at times for everyone.

It has also made me realise how amazing everything that we’ve had the fortune of being involved in has been. It’s given me the perspective to be even more grateful and to enjoy the moment.

I think the last 12 months have also heightened the awareness of the importance of communities and the role they play in supporting people during challenging times.

How would you articulate your overall philosophy about light and what are you most passionate about when it comes to lighting?

My philosophy would be that we are only at the cusp of discovering how important light is in our lives. Light will become ever more important and considered in our daily lives.

This feeds into my greatest passion, which is how light interacts with humans and how we connect with light. I’m fascinated by how people react to light and how it impacts humans from both a biological and health perspective. I’m also really keen to keep exploring the community that we all work in - lighting design is a great family and I am passionate about giving back to that family and hope we get the chance to continue to do that.

What do you think is the number one skill set required to be successful in the lighting industry?

I would say it is to be open. Be open to learning, to collaboration, to engagement, to expressing an opinion and to listening to what others have to say and have to offer. I have learnt so much from so many different people throughout my career and hope to continue to do so.

Lighting is subjective and there are many different routes through which one can access the lighting industry but the one thing that always seems to connect the successful people I see is a passion for light and what they do. 

We recognise you as a Beacon of Light in the industry, but who is your Beacon of Light?

Many people have influenced and helped my career, some of whom I have mentioned earlier and, if there was space, I would add a long list of the people I have worked with and shared offices with before starting Light Collective. As you ask me now though, I have to say my biggest Beacon of Light is Sharon Stammers, my partner in crime at Light Collective. I feel very fortunate to work and collaborate with her.

Our skills complement each other perfectly and we balance each other out. If everyone has the same skills and personalities, we will only ever go in one direction. If we want different things we tend to meet in the middle and it is usually the best collaborative option.  


Thank you to Martin for taking the time to share these thoughts with us. To find out more about the WIL project, visit

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Martin Lupton and Sharon Stammers

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