Actresses Lily James, left, and Gemma Arterton at the BAFTA 2018 Awards in London. Picture: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

London - A sea of flowing black dresses and Time’s Up badges delicately pinned to lapels, the protest was hard to miss.

And the campaigning didn’t stop at the red carpet, as barnstorming acceptance speeches demanding social change turned Sunday night’s Baftas into the most political ever.

Screen stars turned out in force and took any opportunity to prove their liberal credentials. It was difficult to find an acceptance speech without a political stance, with everything from disadvantaged Mexicans to violence against women getting a mention.

Even Joanna Lumley, in the opening speech as she marked her Bafta hosting debut, praised the ‘dogged determination’ of suffragettes. She also thanked those supporting the Time’s Up movement and its ‘determination to eradicate the abuse of women the world over’.

The actress, 71, had taken over from 12-time host Stephen Fry.

The evening was a family affair for Gary Oldman, who arrived on the red carpet flanked by his three sons, Charlie, Gulliver and Alfie, as well as his wife Gisele Schmidt.

The actor, 59, won the Best Actor award for his performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Accepting his Bafta, an emotional Oldman said: "This is made all the more special because I can share it with my family tonight."

"Without your help and without your faith in me, I would not be standing here."

"Last but not least, thank you to Winston Churchill – the man himself. On those darkest days, he held the line for honour, for integrity and freedom, and for his nation. I thank you Sir Winston, I thank you the Churchill family and once again Bafta."

British film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, was the big winner of the night, taking home Best Film, Best British Film and Best Original Screenplay, as well as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor for two of its American stars.

Glamorous attendees had filled the red carpet with black dresses in support of the Time’s Up movement against sexual harassment. Lily James, Angelina Jolie and Saoirse Ronan were among the stars who took part in the protest.

Later while presenting an award, British actress Gemma Arterton thanked the audience for ‘standing up for equality’.

In one political acceptance speech, writer Lee Unkrich – whose film Coco won Best Animated Film – spoke out about Mexicans being treated badly in America.

And Sam Rockwell who won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Three Billboards said he stood ‘on the shoulders of these strong, intelligent, righteous women who have made my life complete’.