HATE speech, how to live a good life and how we should be governed will be the difficult topics tackled in the Salisbury Conversations 2019: Crossing Divides.

Historian Natalie Haynes will join the lawyer who prosecuted the Rochdale grooming gang in a series of live conversations that shine a light on British society in 2019.

The discussions will be recorded in front of an audience in Salisbury Cathedral and broadcast the following evening on BBC Wiltshire and BBC Sounds, the broadcaster’s new catch-up app.

The first discussion on Wednesday, March 6, will be chaired by BBC Wiltshire senior political reporter Dan O’Brien and will focus on hate speech and the polarisation of public debate.

Panellist Nazir Afzal OBE, former chief crown prosecutor for north-west England, who brought the Rochdale grooming gang to justice, will be joined by Jim Waterson, media editor for the Guardian, Sophia Gaston, the director of the Centre for Social and Political Risk and Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury Cathedral.

The second conversation, on how to lead a ‘good life’, will take place on Wednesday, March 13, and will be chaired by James Woodward, Principal of Sarum College.

On the panel will be comedian and classicist Natalie Haynes, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain Harun Kahn and The Bishop of Salisbury The Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam

The third debate on Wednesday, March 20, entitled ‘How should we be governed’ will be chaired by Elinor Goodman, former political editor of Channel 4 news.

Panellists include Labour supporter and comedian Grainne McGuire, political activist and writer Tim Montgomerie and poet and campaigner for children in care Lemn Sissay MBE.

The Very Reverend Papadopulos, who came up with the idea of the discussion series, said: “The purpose of these events is to encourage us all to think about our future and how we can shape it. At a time when society is fragmented Salisbury Cathedral offers a safe space where difficult conversations can take place.

"This is in our DNA, after all: we are the keepers of Magna Carta, foundational document of constitutional liberty. Our firm belief is that respectful conversation in this sacred space will allow people to discover common ground – to appreciate better those things that unite them, and to understand better those things that divide them.”

Mary Sanders, editor of BBC Wiltshire, said: “At a time when there is an increasing sense of division and polarised opinion, this is a very important project to be involved with.

"We’re really looking forward to facilitating a series of enlightening, engaging and considered conversations, which we hope will provoke discussion and debate.

"This isn’t about getting people to agree, but rather to listen to and respect different points of view. You’ll be able to hear these conversations in the Cathedral as well as on your radio and online.”

Each conversation will be broadcast the following day on BBC Wiltshire at 7pm. The programmes will be available after broadcast on BBC Sounds, www.bbc.co.uk/bbcwiltshire.

Crossing Divides discussions are part of a country-wide programme of conversations being held by the BBC.

Tickets are £7.50 an available on Salisbury cathedral website https://bit.ly/2SwwzsG.