Gemma Hunt


Conor McNamara (voice of Squawk)
Ella Kenion (as Captain Sinker, 2013-16)
Joseph Elliot (as Cook, 2013-20)
Richard David-Caine (as Line, 2013-20)
Jennie Dale (as Captain Captain, 2016-18, 2021-22)
Sophia Nomvete (as Captain HeyHo, 2019-20)
Ian Kirkby (as Sandy, 2021-22)
Tyler Collins (as Seaweed, 2021-22)


Cbeebies, 6 July 2013 to 10 July 2022 (208 episodes in 8 series)


A team of young Swashbucklers take on cheeky pirates to win jewels for their treasure chest. There's excitement and drama through to the final game to see if the team of infants will win and whether Cook, Line and Captain Sinker will walk the plank!

The show's backstory is simple. Gem has had her gems stolen by some naughty pirates, so she stowed away. Their ship has run aground, and the pirates will return gems if Gem's team of children can meet some difficult challenges. The youngsters will have to raid the Scarlet Squid to get the rest back.

Gem in the pearl room.

Cbeebies viewers don't watch for the plot - that's to keep their parents quiet. The young viewers are here for the entertainment, and Swashbuckle has plenty of entertainment. Each show begins with the Swashbuckle Salute. There's some comedy with the crew - usually ship's cook Cook has made something lovely with seaweed and/or vile with slop. These aren't subtle performances, but they're very effective.

The Scarlet Squid.

The games are suitable for children of about six to play. They might be asked to roll soft foam cannonballs into a whirlpool while one of the pirates tries to bat the balls away. Or they might need to balance on a log to retrieve coconuts and lob them in a basket. Or they might have to stick rats and mice into a frame.

One for all the ratfans.

Referee for the challenges is Squawk, a talking parrot. No-one ever mentions how bizarre it is to have a talking parrot. On Cbeebies, the unlikely happens everyday. In a four-year-old's life, the unlikely happens everyday.

Squawk has a bird's eye view.

The final challenge is to get the rest of the gems. The children go in pairs to rummage around in the Scarlet Squid. Like in the Fun House finale, the children know where the prizes are, and they'll be hampered by ball pools and climbing frames and pirates waving inflatable fish. (Or was that Supermarket Sweep?)

Anyway, if all the gems come back, one or more of the pirates will end up walking the plank. They will fall into a tank of smelly slop.

A bad day for Captain Captain, Line, and Cook.

Swashbuckle is a highly formatted show, with larger-than-life characters. The audience had no problem when Captain Sinker was replaced by Captain Captain for the fourth series, with the whole crew changing a few years later. It's proven very popular amongst the Cbeebies audience, generating a spin-off magazine, annuals, activity packs, and even a themed hotel at Alton Towers.


The Swashbuckle Salute:

Let me see you march...
Put your hand on your heart...
Eye patch!
Pirate hat!
Swashbuckle cheer - a-harrrrrrrr!

"Yes, Captain, sir, ma'am!"

"Walk! The! Plank!"

Title music

Francis Haines is responsible for the earworm title song, and all the rest of the music.


The first physical game on Cbeebies, the channel for very young children. The press release cites the show's educational aims: "All of the games are designed to incorporate the physical development goals that children experience at school including co-ordination, speed, balance, and aim."

Swashbuckle was partly inspired by searches on the Cbeebies' website: many parents looked for "pirates", but the channel had nothing to offer them.

The soft play area is built by SPi Global Play. It's designed to be safe, falls and scrapes are minor.

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry

See also

Weaver's Week considers the philosophical values in Swashbuckle. It might be a show for young children, but that doesn't mean it's simple.


Image:Swashbuckle cast.jpgCook, Sinker, Line, and host Gem.


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