Back in the 1970s and 1980s when TV newsreaders were all household names, the BBC’s Richard Whitmore was an instantly recognisable figure.

The Comet: Richard Whitmore as a young manRichard Whitmore as a young man (Image: Archant)

And eyebrows were raised when one of the best-known faces on the BBC over two decades decided to say goodbye to breaking the big stories of the day to millions of viewers in order to pursue his long-held dream of becoming a professional actor.

Now in a frank and disarming autobiography to mark his 80th birthday he traces his long career, and a life which has always been linked to his home town of Hitchin.

Richard’s early days in journalism were spent as a reporter on the Hertfordshire Express, a forerunner of The Comet.

But even then he was a keen member of the town’s Bancroft Players and later played a key part in their successful campaign to build the town’s Queen Mother Theatre.

The Comet: Wendy Whitmore and Richard WhitmoreWendy Whitmore and Richard Whitmore (Image: Archant)

From newspapers Richard moved into radio and then TV, spending 10 years on the road covering the major news stories of the day before becoming an anchorman on the BBC’s Nine O’Clock News.

In the book he reflects on the perks and problems of becoming a famous face, how a sudden fear of flying affected his career and why he decided, in his mid-fifties, to give up his secure job to begin a new career in the theatre.

Richard and wife Wendy, who were both born in Hitchin and still live in the town, married in 1957 and have four daughters and nine grandchildren.

Didn’t You Used To Be Richard Whitmore? will be officially launched tomorrow night at the same time as the 2015 Hitchin Festival, in the studio space at the Queen Mother Theatre which bears his name.

He said this week: “I deliberately timed the launch of my book to coincide with this year’s Hitchin Festival because we have become old friends in recent years, thanks to a hobby that now occupies much of my time.

“Since I began collecting historic films of Hitchin and district, Old Hitchin On Film has become a popular feature at the festival.

“Tim Ray of Hitchin Film Club, picture editor Sam Hallas and I are presenting this year’s collection at the Queen Mother Theatre on Tuesday, July 14 and Wednesday, July 15.

“I dare say I’ll take along a few copies of my book in case there is anyone there who hasn’t yet bought one!”

Programmes giving the full run-down of events in this year’s month-long festival are now widely available in the town.

Tickets are already selling briskly for many events – you can contact the box office for more information on 01462 453335.

Richard will also be signing copies of the book at Eric T. Moore’s bookshop in Bridge Street, Hitchin, on Saturday morning from 10.30am.