Analogue gravity enables the study of fields on curved space–times in the laboratory. There are numerous experimental platforms in which amplification at the event horizon or the ergoregion has been observed. Here, we demonstrate how optically generating a defect in a polariton microcavity enables the creation of one- and two-dimensional, transsonic fluid flows. We show that this highly tuneable method permits the creation of horizons. Furthermore, we present a rotating geometry akin to the water-wave bathtub vortex. These experiments usher in the possibility of observing stimulated as well as spontaneous amplification by the Hawking, Penrose and Zeld’ovich effects in fluids of light. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘The next generation of analogue gravity experiments’.