Unknown Americans beat cream of British music to Mercury

British-Sri Lankan rapper MIA walked out of the ceremony within minutes of the announcement that Antony and the Johnsons had won the £20,000 Mercury Prize.

Yet the 6ft 4in singer-songwriter, who was born in Chichester and these days lives in New York, proved a popular choice among most of the bands, critics and record label executives attending the prestigious awards ceremony at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.

Accepting the prize from the presenter Jools Holland, Hegarty, 34, suggested it must be a mistake. "I'm completely overwhelmed. I think that's insane," he said.

Commenting on the nature of the music prize, which is open to all kinds of contemporary music from pop and rock to jazz and folk, he added: "It's kind of a crazy contest. There's like an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon. Which one do you like better? It's mad."

Hegarty, who silenced the room when he performed with his band of a cellist and a violinist last night, won the prize for his album I Am a Bird Now, which was released in March this year and which included contributions from Lou Reed, who has acted as a mentor to him, as well as Rufus Wainwright and Boy George.

With a haunting, ethereal voice suggestive of the choirboy he once was, the Mercury judging panel had said: "Pianist and torch singer Antony has a voice to pin you to the wall - and songs that send shivers down the spine."

The Kaiser Chiefs had been the bookies' favourite and although they made no comment last night, drummer Nick Hodgson last month said of Hegarty: "He's an American really. It's a good album, but it's daft he's got in on a technicality."

Apparently conscious of the row, Hegarty cited British musical influences from Boy George to Marc Almond as being a formative part of his education but avoided a direct answer to the question as to whether he still felt British.

"My thing is really mixed up because I've been moving around my whole life," he said. "I take my inspiration from really soulful singers and there are a lot those in England, Great Britain."

The prize, which was won last year by the Glasgow art rockers Franz Ferdinand, had seemed to many an open contest this year with acts from the tuneful harmonists Magic Numbers to the Sri Lanka-born singer MIA, who mixes hip-hop, ragga and pop, all with their supporters.

Holland said he had been asked by the judges, who included the broadcaster Lauren Laverne and Ian Parkinson, managing editor of Radio 1, to stress how tough a decision it had been because "all of the albums have been so wonderful".

The other shortlisted albums were The Magic Numbers by the Magic Numbers, Arular by MIA, Held on the Tips of Fingers by Polar Bear, Employment by Kaiser Chiefs, A Certain Trigger by Maximo Park, Stars of CCTV by Hard-Fi, Eye to the Telescope by KT Tunstall, Silent Alarm by Bloc Party, Kitty Jay by Seth Lakeman, X&Y by Coldplay, and Thunder, Lightning, Strike by the Go!Team.

Kaiser Chiefs opened the ceremony with a blistering performance. Seth Lakeman, a folk violinist and singer from Dartmoor, used his appearance on the prize stage to say thanks for the blast of publicity for folk music, while MIA - Maya Arulpragasam - originally a refugee from Sri Lanka, praised Britain for making it possible for someone like her to be at the ceremony.

"England is my home and I feel this couldn't have happened to me anywhere else in the world, even in Sri Lanka or America. Britain is the only kind of country that can let somebody come over and go through the motions and get experience of every class, every creed, every nook and cranny.

"I think it's really great that in the climate of what's going on to be someone up here saying thanks. Hopefully this is the positive side of England."

Past winners

* 2004: Franz Ferdinand

* 2003: Dizzee Rascal

* 2002: Ms Dynamite

* 2001: PJ Harvey

* 2000: Badly Drawn Boy

* 1999: Talvin Singh

* 1998: Gomez

* 1997: Roni Size/Reprazent

* 1996: Pulp

* 1995: Portishead

* 1994: M People

* 1993: Suede

* 1992: Primal Scream

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz