Hilary Spencer (b. 22 January 1949, Mexborough, South Yorkshire, England), Jacey Bedford (b. 26 September 1950, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England) and Brian Bedford (b. 7 August 1949, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England) began singing together in 1984. Performing a cappella arrangements of mainly contemporary and traditional material, as well as original songs by Bedford, they released their first album on cassette in 1986, and the same year appeared at the Bracknell Festival in Berkshire. By 1978, Artisan was obtaining regular work all over England, including clubs, major festivals and radio work. Searching For Yorladale combined the poetry of Dorothy Una Ratcliffe with the strong harmonies for which the band was becoming well known. Artisan also provided music for A Parson’s Progress on Yorkshire Television, and in 1989, gave up their day jobs to work full-time in music. In 1989, they received an Arts Council Project Award to research and rehearse traditional material. They have appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Comparing Notes and Kaleidoscope, and on Radio 2’s The Arts Programme, Folk On 2 and Artisan In Concert. Their work has broadened to include concert halls and arts centres, in addition to folk clubs and festivals, and The Season Of Holly And Ivy, as the title suggests, collected a number of festive songs, once again featuring the strong harmonies that are synonymous with the group.
In 2005, after 20 years, Spencer and the Bedfords decided to disband Artisan. Spencer continued to perform with Grant Baynham in Quicksilver and as a member of the Mrs Ackroyd Band. Jacey and Brian Bedford formed the Brian Bedford Band alongside William Pint (b. USA; guitar/vocals), Felicia Dale (b. USA; fiddle/whistle/vocals) and Ben Walker (b. Manchester, England; multi-instruments/vocals).