HE’S worked on a steam railway, in the theatre, with the Cardiff Devils and as a bouncer – now Ben Gray’s role is Vale of Glamorgan Council cabinet member for health and social care.

The 35-year-old recently took up the post from Gordon Kemp as council leader John Thomas opted to freshen up the authority’s decision-making team.

Elected in 2017, Mr Gray represents the Plymouth ward in Penarth. In fact, he ran against his next door neighbour two years ago in Labour candidate Angela Thomas.

That is just one quirk in an interesting backstory that has seen the former Welsh NUS president establish himself firmly in the local political scene.

“Campaigning against your next door neighbour is a bit odd,” said Mr Gray.

“She has her posters up and I’ve got mine up.

“It’s all very amicable and that’s how I operate with everything. I get on well with everybody, but that doesn’t get in the way of me standing up for what I believe in.”

Originally from Basingstoke, Mr Gray moved to Wales when he attended Aberystwyth University.

He became involved in the National Union of Students, going on to lead the organisation in Wales.

A spell working for the University of Wales followed, then came a change of direction that ended with him taking over as chairman of the Dean Forest Railway in the Forest of Dean.

But after a few years in that post, he was off in yet another direction.

Mr Gray put into practice the MA he holds in Stage and Event Management, working on productions such as Tiger Bay at the Wales Millennium Centre.

He operated as a middle man to find a practical way to implement the creative ideas and effects envisioned by a director.

But perhaps an even more action-packed period saw the Penarth Town councillor and former Welsh Assembly candidate work as a nightspot bouncer.

“As part of my training, there was a qualification I completed in conflict management, which explains how to defuse a situation and how you stop it from escalating. It’s something I use every single day,” said Ben.

“My wife used to be assistant manager of the Beverley on Cathedral Road so I did a couple of rugby internationals there and I worked over in Bristol on Christmas party-type stuff.”

“In Aberystwyth was when I was on the doors in the town and had some fairly unpleasant experiences.

“The most disgusting thing that happened was that I ended up on the floor with someone spitting in my eye.

“I was trying to grab hold of them while being set upon by their whole family.

“I pressed my panic button and 15 or 16 bouncers from around town came running, but the three minutes it took for that to happen was pretty scary.”

Having previously tackled such an eclectic range of challenges, Mr Ward’s focus is now on his new portfolio of Health and Social Care.

That also covers diverse areas, including all aspects of Social Services as well as the likes of community and leisure centre management.

“When I was a student I got involved in politics. It wasn’t that I wanted to change the world. I got inspired by looking at the things I could change and working towards that,” he added.

“A lot of my politics is about co-production, co-creation. You have a stake in what you do. Coming to the table and being part of that is the responsibility of everybody. It’s not for me to provide everything for people. Politics and public life is about people coming together to solve issues.

“Other than educating our children, I think health and social care is the most important thing the Council does.

“The physical number of people who have contact with Social Services might be lower, but those that do, the service and support they receive needs to be of the highest order.

“The other side of the brief is Leisure. I want to make sure that all 130,000 in the Vale know about our leisure services.

“We need to develop facilities that people can be proud of and want to use.”