Marcus Mason-Williams of West Midlands Ski Group has turned from athlete to author by writing his first book inspired by Soccer Aid, the world’s biggest celebrity football match.

Marcus, who has been a Special Olympics GB athlete since 2010 and has his own business CoolArt2021, has always held ambitions to publish his first story and to also develop skills in animated film. 

Zooland: A Sign of Hope (Zooland) demonstrates that when you have passion, talent and a dream, anything is possible. 

It tells the story of an incredible journey that a zebra called Milo, who lives in London Zoo, and a young girl called Velma Hill experience through a shared love for football and adventure. When Milo unexpectedly acquires a football and teams up with Velma, together they overcome obstacles and opposition to help a struggling football team to realise their dreams; Milo’s being to compete in Soccer Aid.

“Zooland is an exciting story of how an unexpected friendship, courage and teamwork can help you accomplish more than you ever thought possible,” said Marcus. “I want to use it to help inspire others to find their passion in life, whether it’s sport, science, art, music or many other things.

“It’s also designed to help children recognise that they should always dream big and understand that they can accomplish anything if they have that passion, drive and motivation. Being part of my Special Olympics ski club has helped me on this journey.”

Zooland has also been illustrated by Marcus. It features several of Milo the zebra’s friends on their adventure, including Swing the daredevil spider monkey, Flip the kind and caring flamingo, Leap the tree frog who loves to rap and Stalker the laid-back leopard. 

“I always wanted to make animated movies, from when I attended a media class in my school days.  However, I found stop motion very hard, especially using plasticine figures. Now I use digital art software and soon I will be publishing, with the marvellous help of City Press, a very short animation of one of the scenes from Zooland, just in time for Soccer Aid 2023.”

As well as being a keen runner and feeding his huge passion for music by attending Birmingham Rock School and performing at Autism’s Got Talent, Marcus also runs his own greeting cards business, CoolArt2021. 

The company was founded in 2021 through his love of art and design, wildlife and the natural world. He sells draws and creates a range of colourful and imaginative animal-themed greeting cards to suit all occasions, including last year’s Special Olympics GB Christmas card. 

Through the development of CoolArt2021, Marcus was part of Special Olympics GB’s Unified Business Project with Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, which took place in the final part of last year.

“I developed my passion for art from a very early age, at nursery and then school. I saw the work of French painter Henry Rousseau, particularly the Tiger in a Tropical Storm. This style encouraged me to draw animals by hand, but I also use digital software and have learnt to draw cartoons, thanks to Neil Kerber, a UK leading cartoonist.

“My ambition is to develop my storytelling and be a storyboarder and animator one day. My art and stories showcase my passion for wildlife and the natural world, with further inspiration from my heroes Kate Humble, Sir David Attenborough, Bill Oddie, Chris Packham and Johnny Kingdom. My work is also influenced by my autism.

“I’ve been inspired recently by the Last Chance to See television programme, from several years ago which looked at endangered animals. I want to spend part of this year drawing them, such as the Amazonian Manatee, the Northern White Rhinoceros and the Blue Whale. These will be appearing on cards and other products in my shop soon.”

Following the publication of Zooland, Marcus plans to create a new line of story books, comics, audio books and animations for both children and adults.

Special Olympics GB has a copy of Zooland that has been signed by England football manager Gareth Southgate and Scotland team manager Steve Clarke.

Stay tuned to Special Olympics GB’s social media channels for details on how to enter.

For further details about Zooland or to order a copy of the book, please visit Amazon by clicking here

For further details on West Midlands Ski Group, please click here