STAR of TV and radio Dermot O’Leary paid a special visit to his home town of Colchester as he turns his talents to more children’s books.

The X Factor and BBC Radio Two presenter spent yesterday with more than 300 lucky Colchester schoolchildren at the town’s Mercury Theatre.

They were read to by an energetic Dermot before he spent nearly two hours signing copies of the two children’s books he has published so far and posing for photographs.

Dermot later met around 350 more fans at Waterstones in High Street to sign more copies of his books.

Dermot, 45, made sure Colchester was on his list of places to visit for publicise his popular Toto the Ninja Cat story series.

Speaking to the Gazette about his brief return to Colchester, he said: “I have got huge nostalgia towards here - the Hole in the Wall, arts centre, what was The Cups pub and The Marquis.”

Joking how it was a shame he’d given up alcohol for Lent after listing the pubs, Dermot recalled memories of his university days when he caught the train to Marks Tey to visit his parents who lived there at the time.

The former Colchester Sixth Form College student said he was last in Colchester last year and visits old pals in Boxted, Earls Colne and Rowhedge when he can.

His debut children’s book, Toto the Ninja Cat and the Great Snake Escape, has sold over 35,000 copies.

His second is Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist, and first draft of his third Toto books has just gone to publishers.

He said: “The idea for Toto first came to me when my wife and I rescued two stray cats from an olive grove in Italy.

“One of them, Toto, has been blind from birth, but we quickly realised she had ninja-like reactions.

“Before I knew it, I was writing about Toto and her brother Silver’s nocturnal adventures around London. I loved seeing reader reactions to the first book and it was great to immerse myself in Toto’s world again for her second adventure.

“And creating a sinister, cape-wearing baddie-cat appealed to my love of crime fiction.”

Dermot said writing bore more similarities to broadcast work than people might expect, all having a creative process.

“It is still getting a deadline - it is like fun homework.

“The discipline is still there and I write my scripts. You find out who you are when you write, I think. “

Dermot’s TV and radio work has made him a household name.

He started his career on T4 for Channel 4, and went on to present and produce Big Brother’s Little Brother.

In 2007, Dermot landed the coveted role hosting ITV 1’s The X Factor and has presented ten series to date.

Throughout this time he has presented his own multi award-winning BBC Radio 2 show every Saturday.

In 2014, Dermot’s first book, The Soundtrack to My Life, a musical memoir, was published.

In May 2018, alongside Huw Edwards and Kirsty Young, Dermot co-hosted the BBC’s coverage of the Royal Wedding of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle which attracted 13 million viewers.

Autumn 2019 will see Dermot present the 15th series of The X Factor.