On Monday night at a champagne reception at London’s Tate Britain gallery, actor Jude Law announced the winner of the £25,000 Turner Prize for art. Elizabeth Price looked momentarily stunned when her name was read out and she was invited to the stage to collect this most prestigious – and often controversial – of British awards.

“I felt completely, weirdly calm,” says Price, 46. “Of course when you’re on the shortlist you have to prepare yourself for the possibility of winning, and for a second it was almost frightening, suddenly all these cameras going off in my direction. But then I just took a moment to compose myself, tell myself, ‘you’ve just got to get through the next two minutes’.”

Price’s award-winning artwork is a 20-minute film installation entitled The Woolworths Choir Of 1979. It fuses looped segments of footage of a devastating blaze at a Woolworths store in Manchester in 1979, in which ten people died, with a performance by 1960s girl band The Shangri-Las. It is an almost hypnotic, haunting and ultimately moving piece which wowed critics when it was exhibited at the Tate earlier this year.

Price was born in Bradford and lived in Duchy Avenue, Heaton, until she was five. Then her family relocated to Luton where her dad had got a new job. But the family maintained its Bradford links, Price’s grandparents remaining in the city, and they were frequent visitors back here. Her family has since gravitated back to the area – her brother lives in Shipley and parents are also back in the region.

Choosing such an emotionally-charged subject as the devastating, fatal Woolworths fire as the subject for her piece was something Price gave a lot of consideration. She says: “I took it very seriously. I didn’t want to trivialise the event and it is meant to be respectful and commemorative of what happened, which I remember from being a child.”

Price believes art should not shy away from such subjects: “I think art should be a place where this kind of thing should be remembered and thought about again in the present.”

There’s a recurring motif in the film of the arms of trapped workers waving from barred windows, and looped clips of an eye-witness repeating “they were throwing all the cups down”. Price says: “That detail is of women, who were subsequently rescued, throwing everything out of the window, illustrating the kind of thing people were doing to raise the alarm, to get help. It’s people taking charge of the terrible situation they were in.”

The choice of the fire footage was informed by Price’s Bradford roots – specifically the Bradford City fire in 1985, in which 56 people were killed and hundreds more injured. She takes a moment to gather her thoughts, then says carefully: “One of the reasons I wanted to make the piece about Woolworths was that my dad and my two little brothers were in the Bradford City fire.

“We’d come back to Bradford so they could go to the game and I went shopping with my mum. We started to hear the news and had no idea what was going on, whether they were safe or not – this was obviously a long time before mobile phones, before people could get hold of information easily. My uncle immediately got in his car and drove to Bradford, driving around the streets looking for any sign of them.”

Price’s father and brothers escaped the ground, though the memory of the devastating event is still raw for all of them. And it adds an extra emotional dimension to the Woolworths film, though she hasn’t previously discussed her own family’s experiences in relation to the Turner piece.

The Woolworths Choir Of 1979 took around a year to complete, though since it was first exhibited six months ago, Price has continued to edit and tinker with the film, so it has gone through substantial changes since the first version was finished. It’s more remarkable for the fact that she only began to work with this type of video art four years ago.

Educated in a comprehensive in Luton before studying art at Oxford, Elizabeth Price’s name might also jog memories for over-the-hill indie kids... she was singer and songwriter in the ethereal band Talulah Gosh in the 1980s, of which much has been made since she won the Turner. Is she worried her pop past might dog her like TV scientist Prof Brian Cox, who can’t be interviewed without reference to his stint as keyboard player in D:Ream?

She laughs and says: “I’m still in touch with the other band members, and on Monday night after the Turner announcement we were bouncing around to the Buzzcocks. My time in the band heavily influenced my art, so I’m not about to hide it.”

Her comprehensive school education also means she is fiercely supportive of arts teaching in state schools. She says: “Young people have to find out what they’re good at, they have to have the opportunities. I wouldn’t be able to have had a career as an artist but for the opportunities I received at school. Historically, art has always been for the privileged, but I think art must reflect the experiences of normal people.

“If you only have privileged people making art, then they’re just going to make art for themselves and people like them.”