Elizabeth Price has won the Turner Prize for her video installation show, which included a film inspired by a fatal fire in a Woolworths store in Manchester.
Ms Price, who started out as a singer with 1980s indie pop band Talulah Gosh, was presented with the £25,000 prize by actor Jude Law at a ceremony at Tate Britain in central London.
She was one of four artists shortlisted for the prestigious prize including fellow film-maker Luke Fowler, performance artist Spartacus Chetwynd and bookies' favourite Paul Noble, who produced a series of detailed drawings of fictional city Nobson Newtown.
Accepting the prize, Ms Price said her career would be "unimaginable" without public support for the arts and paid tribute to her comprehensive school education.
She also hailed the other shortlisted artists, saying they had shared a sense of "respect, camaraderie and a sense of the absurd".
Ms Price's film, The Woolworths Choir Of 1979, features archive footage from the blaze that gutted the city centre store and left 10 people dead, mixed with architectural designs, film of a 1960s girl group and music.
Ms Price said she can spend around a year working on an individual film before reworking them for another couple of years.
She said: "I think it takes me that long to understand precisely what I meant to give emphasis to."
The jury admired the "seductive and immersive qualities" of Ms Price's work and praised the way she "creates a rhythmic and ritualistic experience through her film installations combining different materials and technical vocabularies from archival footage and popular music videos to advertising strategies".
The Bradford-born artist, who grew up in Luton before studying in London, joins previous winners including Anish Kapoor, Damien Hirst and Grayson Perry.
Ms Price thanked the Tate for making the process of being nominated "comfortable".
She said: "It was a real pleasure to be associated with the other nominees, both personally and professionally.
"It's incredibly depressing listening to the comments people made earlier that a young girl from Luton going to a comprehensive might not be able to imagine being an artist and might not have the opportunities I've had."
But presenting the award, Law attacked the "cultural vandalism" of the Government over the introduction of the English Baccalaureate, which he said would take arts, design and music out of schools.
The Turner Prize sees £25,000 go to the winner and £5,000 each for the other shortlisted artists.