FOR 70 years it has been a cultural magnet for the world's greatest performers - attracting groundbreaking ensembles from the realms of dance, opera, music and theatre.

But the even the phenomenon of the Edinburgh International Festival is not immune from the impact of Brexit with its director raising fears the impending divorce from the EU could impact on sponsorship and fundraising for the globally-renowned event.

READ MORE: Preparations for Brexit talks will take 'some time' due to Scottish Government involvement, says No 10

Fergus Linehan said he would be watching political events unfold "very carefully" so to protect the famous festival, which launches in August 5

Speaking about ticket sales, Mr Linehan said: "I am loathe to say they are good because I have a feeling we will get there, but I don't think it will be easy this year.

"It was great up until [Brexit] that moment. We will all be watching it very carefully."

Britain's narrow vote to leave the EU was "strange", said Mr Linehan, and gave festival organisers "a fright".

READ MORE: Preparations for Brexit talks will take 'some time' due to Scottish Government involvement, says No 10

He said: "There is no solid indication yet [of what impact may be], but anyone who is doing anything in the retail sphere who says they are not a little bit anxious are lying."

Linehan said that leaving the EU could mean the festival incurs extra running costs compounding the threat to fundraising revenue.

"The bigger is issue is that in terms of the last six to eight months, coming out of the previous [Scottish Independence] referendum, the idea was that people were talking about the next three years, planning a bit more," he said.

"And it isn't as if anyone is doing anything utterly drastic, but everyone is saying 'those conversations we were having? Let's just hold.'

READ MORE: Preparations for Brexit talks will take 'some time' due to Scottish Government involvement, says No 10

"You hear this from a lot of people - any kind of future investment has not been cancelled but put on hold.

"I am not talking about the 2017 programme, but sponsorship and fund raising. There is a sense of hiatus."

He added: "Everyone is going: 'Look we are still absolutely on board with this but we have to see how things play out in the next six months.' So that has created anxiety, no doubt."

The EIF was founded in 1947 as a cultural reaction to the devastation wrought by World War Two.

It is due to celebrate its 70th anniversary next year with a programme of shows themed on its European heritage.

"We are a European institution, that is what we were set up to be, we cannot step away form that in any sense," said Mr Linehan speaking at the launch of Songlines, a city-wide event inviting everyone to take part in a unique celebration of singing.

"It goes to the core of what we are here for, and what we are about.

"I fundamentally agree that a festival should not be taking a political position on something, because we have to be a very broad church, but there is no doubt that this question - Edinburgh, Scotland and the UK's relationship with Europe and beyond - is now suddenly become the great question of our generation.

"And given we were set up to facilitate that discussion in a way, or to assist it, it seems perfectly appropriate to address that."

Mr Linehan said next year's anniversary is "all about Europe" and the Brexit vote will not change that.

He said that if you look back to what was behind the 1947 establishment of the festival it "does shake you, and remind you that this wasn't set up as a nice way for hotels to charge you £400 a night, it had something a little bit more serious to it."

Asked whether the Brexit vote had in some way diminished the festival, he said: "In a way, yes, and no.

"I certainly felt: Are those values that I stand by, that this organisation stands by, not held by the majority of the people in the UK? Which is alarming.

"On the other hand it does force you to think, are those values that you hold and stand by, not cutting through to a huge number of people in this country.

"It is a moment for us as well to think about how, whether or not we are in a more insular conversation than we may have thought."