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Storyland buys back ownership

STORYLAND, the family entertainment company based in Dundee, has raised £ 1.5m from a clutch of institutional and private investors, with some of that cash funding the buy-back of programmes and books created by founder Joe Austen.

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The cash includes £ 350,000 from Aberdeen Murray Johnstone Private Equity, and £ 250,000 from Eastern Scotland Investments, the fund managed by Nelson Gray's GAP Fund Managers. The remaining £ 900,000 came from a syndicate of private investors, including former Axis-Shield chief executive David Evans, now chief executive of Storyland. The company, which was set up a year ago, has bought back ownership of more than 60 programmes and two dozen books created by Austen for various broadcasters and publishers. These properties include 13 episodes of The Story Store, previously owned and aired by Carleton, and 55 episodes of The Magic House, which was developed for Scottish Television. Austen, who has nearly 30 years of experience as a writer, illustrator, producer and director, said Storyland had paid a six- figure sum to bring these and other properties back into its ownership. They will form the core of a wide range of family entertainment that Storyland intends to market through television, satellite, cable, publishing and new media such as broadband. Employing four people, Storyland has already produced a new Story Store Christmas Special for the ITV network. It will air on New Year's day, and features impressionist Rory Bremner as the voice behind more than half-a-dozen characters. Austen said the company had signed a ''British screen great'' as its president, and this man should be able to help open further opportunities through his experience and standing. ''I don't think we will be in a position to make a formal announcement until next month,'' he said.

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