The Kremlin is hidden by an enormous row of BMW billboards, although they seem to be the only ones in Moscow full of advertisements. Even though the VIP tables in Soho Rooms, one of the city's most ostentatious nightclubs, can still be reserved for the rather worrying sum of £8,000 (and on which you can still place a £1,200 bottle of Dom Perignon), and even though the luxury shops are reporting a brisker trade than at Christmas, times here are still tough.
Weirdly, the city feels like something of a brand graveyard, as every flat surface that was once covered in an image of Lenin (when I last visited, in 1986, pre-Glasnost, they were literally everywhere) has now been replaced by a neon luxury logo. The city I once knew is unrecognisable, and where the wide streets were once peppered with figures with the smallest shopping bags, now they're full of Audis and Mercedes packed up with designer holdalls.
Moscow is still the great melting pot of northern Europe, though. I was in town for the AngloMockba Festival, another of Pablo Ganguli's extraordinary cultural festivals, this one attended by the likes of Michael Nyman, Gavin Turk, Martha Fiennes, Michael Craig-Martin and Stephen Frears. After my talk we all decamped to the John Dunne, a pretty fair approximation of a traditional British pub, so traditional that Stephen Frears ordered chicken tikka masala, and Michael Nyman wolfed down a steak and kidney pie.
The night before, in the basement of The Most (a brilliant restaurant/nightclub combo), William Orbit turned the room into a blur of pre-apocalyptic noise, the dance floor awash with long-limbed beauties and their burly, shorn-haired men (Frears had long-since departed for a moonlit walk around Red Square: "Whenever I hear the word 'DJ' I tend to walk in the other direction"). The locals wore sunglasses and drank cocktails, the visitors drank industrial-strength vodka. In Moscow, like most other places in the world, you can always dance away a recession.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'Reuse content