Our _ Story
Who we are
Whoever wants to create innovations has to believe in them. That’s what we, the organizers of the Places _ Virtual Reality Festival, did, when we had the idea for the 2017 event – even though everyone of us was more or less an amateur in this field. What we still lacked in knowledge about VR technology and industry, we compensated with energy and courage. Through our event, Virtual Reality and real life meet each other. Virtual Reality experiences its reality check in the surroundings of the most exciting district of the Ruhr Area. Between the charm of old buildings and the style of modern glass facades, Gelsenkirchen-Ückendorf is the location of the #1 festival for Virtual Reality in Germany.
In November, the Insane Urban Cowboys, previously existing as an informal network at that time, form a common association. The aim of the group is to let young movers and shakers in Gelsenkirchen network and to stimulate the cultural life of the urban area. The Insane Urban Cowboys want to play a role in the development of the urban district Ückendorf. This happens mainly through various parties in this neighborhood, which is, by many, still considered to be a no-go-area at that time, as well as through networking events for young creatives and entrepreneurs in Gelsenkirchen.
In this part of the town, in some places, there are already beginnings of change. Events of the creative scene take place around Bochumer Straße. The district is slowly blossoming and the Insane Urban Cowboys are doing their part.
In the course of 2016, in Gelsenkirchen, the first ideas around the topic of Virtual Reality are developed. Florian and Patrick Becker are planning the opening of their VR arcade “VRoom.ruhr” and the business development of the City of Gelsenkirchen has also recognized the potential of this new technology. Dr. Christopher Schmitt, Head of the Department of Economic Affairs, brings the idea of a VR weekend in Ückendorf into play. Initial talks between VRoom and the citys business development department take place and the first ideas for VR events in Ückendorf are spun.
One thing proves in no-time: A VR event in Ückendorf has a high potential, but needs certain structures and a portion of conceptual work in addition to the existence of an organizer, if the event is to be successful. The Insane Urban Cowboys come into play and with their idea for a whole VR festival they inspire the business development department of the City of Gelsenkirchen. The final concept for this four-day festival is developed in cooperation. The basic idea behind the festival: Attract partners from all over Germany and stage it in the different locations of Ückendorf – from the glass arcade of the “Wissenschaftspark” to the now empty former shops and buildings. Here, with the help of VR, visitors are transported into different worlds. The theme of the “place” represents this idea and as a consequence we talk about the “Places _ VR Festival” for the first time.
The Places _ VR Festival celebrates its premiere. Germany’s first festival for Virtual Reality takes place in the Creative Quarter Ückendorf. More than 2000 visitors, enthusiastic program partners and numerous media reports with over 8.9 million viewers, readers and listeners impressively confirm that the idea of the festival came up at the right time and in the right place. The festival program included experience stations, lectures, workshops, parties, a hackathon and much more. The response from visitors and program partners was overwhelmingly good and motivated people to start planning a new edition of the Places _ VR Festival -> Link to the review
2019 is not a “break year” for the Places team. The second festival edition cannot take place in 2019. Nevertheless, with the VR-Science- & Business Day and Creative _ Places two successful events can be realized.
At VR Science- & Business Day two exciting sides of the XR industry meet. On the one hand, 21 university teams presented their XR projects and applied for the DIVR Science Award, which is presented jointly with the German Institute for VR. On the other hand, the day is an exchange platform for creative people, media professionals and IT experts. Medien.NRW is making its first appearance in the Ruhr Region with the network event series “Match me if you can”.
In June 2019, the Places team receives the Urbanana Award for extraordinary concepts in city tourism. The prize awarded by Tourismus NRW is both a reward for work done and motivation for future editions of the Places _ Festival.
At Creative _ Places we have implemented the long-cherished idea of a short term artist-in-residence program. 6 artists* from all over Germany lived and worked together for one week, in a shared flat, working in a shared office to present a joint exhibition with elements of XR, video and performance.
After taking a run-up in 2019, a proper solution for the future was found to present a Places _ VR Festival in 2020 and 2021. Through the support of the State Ministry of Economic Affairs within the framework of the digital model regions, financing for two festival years was secured. The newly founded mrx storytelling UG is responsible for the implementation on behalf of the City of Gelsenkirchen. The founders and festival directors of the Places _ VR Festival, Roman Pilgrim and Matthias Krentzek, remain responsible for the festival management.