The Salisbury Conversations 2019: Crossing Divides

TICKETS for a this new discussion series tackling modern issues, which will be recorded and broadcast, have just gone on sale.

The series aims to give commentators and social and political observers, individuals on the “inside”, who influence our news, views and understanding of the world around us, a platform to explore viewpoints.

The first conversation on Wednesday, March 6 focuses on hate speech and the polarised nature of public debate today.

Panellist Nazir Afzal OBE, former chief crown prosecutor for North West England, is a champion of free speech and social media, as long as there is regulation, saying: “Free speech is essential as far as democracy is concerned, however free speech requires regulation, legitimate restriction, it requires law, and with every freedom there are responsibilities – so what we have to do is ensure that people are able to make great use of social media, which is clearly a force for good, but recognise there are people being harmed by things that are written or said. It is a balance between your rights and your responsibilities.”

Appearing with Nazir Afzal are social and political researcher Sophia Gaston, Deputy Director of the Henry Jackson Society and Director of the Centre for Social and Political Risk, Jim Waterson, formerly political editor of BuzzFeed UK and now Media Editor of the Guardian, and the Very Rev Nicholas Papadopulos, Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, who initiated this discussion series.

The Dean 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”.

On Wednesday, March 13 The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Church of England lead in the House of Lords on the Environment, joins the conversation asking What is a good life? He will be joined by Natalie Haynes, comedian, classicist and author of The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, and Harun Kahn, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

On Wednesday March 20 the panellists for How should we be governed? include Grainne McGuire, self-proclaimed political nerd, Labour supporter and comedian, Tim Montgomerie, political activist, blogger and columnist, who is best known as the co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice and creator of the Conservative Home website, and poet Lemn Sissay MBE, a campaigner for children in care and author of Magniloquent Cartilage, which is part of the Ladders of Light: a new constitution for the UK installation currently on show in the Cathedral.

Crossing Divides will each be recorded in front of an audience and broadcast the following evening on BBC Wiltshire.

Tickets are £7.50 at