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Middlesex graduate wins art prize for radical movement against racism


A Middlesex graduate has won a prestigious new art prize for his radical artistic approach to tackling racism.

Art graduate Chris Alton has worked on a project called the 'EDL' - English Disco Lovers. Based around the web and social media 'bombing', the movement aims to reclaim the EDL acronym from the English Defence League, and to redefine it in a positive way.

Chris explains that by subverting the English Defence League's hatred with humour, he wants to make EDL stand for equality and acceptance instead of Islamophobia, racism and violence. To do this, the movement draws on the positivity of the disco music genre and the history of disco as a haven for minorities.

'EDL' was selected as one of the projects to be displayed at the respected law firm Collyer Bristow's gallery in central London. Other pieces, from recent Middlesex and Goldsmiths graduates, included paintings and photographic collections.

This week, Chris' work received further acclaim in winning the newly-created Collyer Bristow £2,000 grant award, after EDL was selected by Emma Dexter, Director of Visual Arts at the British Council, as the standout piece of the exhibition.

On winning the prize, Chris commented: "It's pretty overwhelming. I've been working on this project for over two years and there have been a lot of high points - this has to be one of the highest. I feel like English Disco Lovers has finally come full circle, back into the art world that birthed it.

"I was stunned when Emma announced my name. It's such an honour to be recognised by the British Council and by Collyer Bristow. I don't have any concrete plans for the money, although a Masters is on the cards."

On the standard of work that was being judged Emma said: "I was really impressed with the standard of work I was looking at. The amazing talent we have in this country [and the] incredible institutions we have that produce it. This is one of the reasons why this country is a world leader, both in terms of education and fine art."

Head of Visual Arts in The School of Art and Design, Phil Healey, commenting on the success said "Chris has worked incredibly hard and those who know him and his work will agree that he thoroughly deserves the award. His piece is creative, subversive and thought provoking, using humour and performance to make a serious political point in the nicest possible way. Congratulations are also in order to the Fine Art team in recognition of this success and their drive for academic and artistic excellence."

Since the creation of English Disco Lovers, the movement has gained over 63,000 Facebook likes, almost 11,000 Twitter followers and has Google-bombed the search term 'EDL'.

The EDL have performed at festivals including Glastonbury, Shambala, Kendal Calling and the Playgroup Festival - spreading their "Don't Hate! Gyrate!" message and were also shortlisted for the National Diversity Awards 2013. The group currently organises charity club nights across the UK.

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