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The Navigators

Production Crew

Director:Ken Loach

Producer: Rebecca O'Brien

Screenplay by: Rob Dawber

Music by: George Fenton

Cinematography by: Barry Ackroyd

Editor: Jonathan Morris

Production Design: Martin Johnson


John: Dean Andrews

Mick: Tom Craig

Paul: Joe Duttine

Jim: Steve Huison

Gerry: Venn Tracey

Harpic: Sean Glenn


If first-time script writer ROB DAWBER hadn’t torn a tendon falling off a sand dune on holiday in 1996, The Navigators may never have been written. “I sent in a letter to Ken Loach about my experiences working on the railway and he wrote back saying he was interested and would like to see the script” said Dawber. As there was no script to speak of, the enforced rest after the holiday accident provided the six weeks needed to shape ideas into a script.

Dawber spent eighteen years working for British Rail within the Signalling and Telecommunication department in Sheffield, Yorkshire. As a union representative he worked through privatisation until 1997. The changes worried him deeply and, despite many occasions on which he raised concerns about safety and working conditions, the new managers didn’t seem to respond.

“The idea of dramatising the issues was born largely out of frustration” recalled Dawber. “We were down to the last six men in the depot who refused to take redundancy.” Ultimately, they were forced to take compulsory redundancy, despite the union winning agreement that all redundancies should be on a voluntary basis.

Rob Dawber died on 20 February 2001. The cause of his death was mesothelioma, a cancer contracted while working with asbestos on the railways.

An internal management memorandum revealed that although workers were continually being exposed to lethal asbestos, it was considered to be too expensive to remove it all or to educate them about safer ways of handling it.

It was a bitter victory for Rob when he established in court that his employers were to blame for his illness.

Short Synopsis

The Navigators follows the fortunes of a group of rail track workers based at a South Yorkshire depot as the privatisation of British Rail takes effect. When Harpic (so called because he's clean around the bend) the depot boss, gives Paul, Mick and the rest of the gang their new working brief, the company's "mission statement", "performance related pay" and no paid holidays seems like a joke. But before long the choice is very clear to the gang; take their chances with redundancy cash and life as casual agency workers, or work for the company under the new rules...