Elbow was the surprise winner of the 2008 Nationwide Mercury Prize, the annual event that celebrates the best album of the year by British and Irish acts.

Elbow won for its acclaimed "The Seldom Seen Kid" (Fiction/Polydor) and was cheered to the rafters by the audience at London' Grosvenor House Hotel. "This is quite literally the best thing that's ever happened to us," emotional frontman Guy Garvey said in his acceptance speech.

Earlier, nine of the 12 nominees performed live, with only mysterious dubstep artist Burial completely absent. The event, hosted by celebrated U.K. musician Jools Holland, was broadcast live on national public TV network BBC 2.

According to bookmakers William Hill, Burial was the favorite with odds of 4/7 for "Untrue" (Hyperdub), followed by 6/1 for Radiohead's "In Rainbows" and the Elbow album.

The Mercury panel of judges whittled down the nominees from a long list of more than 240 contenders entered by their respective record companies.

The award was established as the Mercury Music Prize in 1992 by labels body the BPI and its counterpart retail association ERA (then known as BARD). The Nationwide Building Society took over as sponsor from Japanese-owned consumer-electronics firm Panasonic in 2004.