Dale Vince’s first book, Manifesto, was published in November 2020. It is subtitled ‘How a maverick entrepreneur took on British energy and won’ and it opens with the line “I’ve been bothered by the unsustainability of life since I was a kid.” Devon-based supporter, Michael Crane, gives us his own view of the autobiography, and tells us that it is well worth a read!
Manifesto is a short read of thirteen chapters, Dale’s lucky number, that covers a lot of ground. Printed in large font and written as you might expect him to speak, it encourages those who may not otherwise pick up an autobiography to take the plunge. If you’re inclined to find out more about what drives this unconventional character, discover where he came from, and perhaps more interesting where he would like to go then it’s a few hours well spent.
Dale writes with a passion and an honesty that overcomes some of the suspicion inevitable in any autobiography, what has been left out and why? However, it does leave important questions unanswered.
After the first chapter that sums up what has motivated him during his life, how we all might lead a more sustainable life, the next three cover life as a traveller in UK and Europe. A resourceful mechanic of no fixed abode and decidedly anti-establishment it is a rare insight into life on the road and conflict with authority at this time.
“Happenstance” is a word Dale uses on a number of occasions to explain how he has arrived where he has. “A lucky combination of circumstances” is the dictionary definition. The next six chapters chart the fascinating and almost improbable journey from parking on a hill above Stroud and dreaming of a windmill to the complexity of running a number of multi-million pound “eco-businesses”. Sustainable energy arguments can be followed, as nuts and bolts understanding of new technologies are acquired, all spiced up with accounts of the dirty dealings of big business. Chance or the right person at the right time?
For football fans you have to wait all the way to page 144 for the first reference to the game. Chapter 11, “Another Way”, is a must read for anyone interested in Forest Green Rovers, not only for the back story to the current club’s identity but also how this fits in with Dale’s overall vision (in another life he could well have been a Norwich supporter).
The final two chapters summarise the authors vision for the future, how we might live together justly and sustainably, and the paths we might follow if people, both individually and collectively, are to change. His arguments are certainly open to question and these chapters are clearly political. As he says on the final page, “politics is the next frontier”.
So, what questions has he left unanswered? My top two are these:
“Politics is where most impact can be made, I may go there”, is his tantalising parting shot. From the author of a book called Manifesto this must be more than a passing thought. Is he ready to accept the compromises effective politics demands given success to date has come very much through going it alone?
Political life inevitably brings its critics probing for the soft spots and weaknesses. On page 58 he speaks about the liberating feeling of throwing his last change over the hedge and having nothing. A quick google search now puts his current personal wealth at over £200 million. Manifesto often refers to the ideal business model as one where profit is reinvested for the general benefit. I’m sure I will not be the first or last to ask for an explanation.
Perhaps Edition 2 of the book will have a second epilogue with some answers.
Manifesto is well worth a read and may even make you reconsider old habits. Our lives and the world we live in need people like Dale Vince, someone who dreams of making diamonds from the skies and turns it into reality.
Manifesto is available to buy from usual outlets and from the Forest Green website at fgr.co.uk